Has yet another search for a missing person ended in tragedy?
In the wake of the Gabby Petito search and subsequent homicide investigation capturing the attention of the country, a number of other missing persons cases have been close enough to get a little bit of the national spotlight on them as well. One man who went missing near where Gabby did was even found thanks to new tips — though we wish that had been resolved differently.
A case that was close not geographically but in shape was that of Lauren Cho.
Like Gabby she had left her normal life for an adventure on the road with a boyfriend. Like Gabby, her guy — in this case her ex, Cody Orell — was the last person to see her alive.
After the 30-year-old simply vanished in the California desert on the afternoon of June 28, her friends reported her missing right away — that’s the first big difference from Gabby’s case. A search started right away for Lauren (who went by El), with parties on foot, then searching in the air by drone and by helicopter; later a team of dogs was brought in.
Now, however, she’s been missing for over three months. So hopes are not high. But people care — and that matters a lot in these cases. Her friend Jeff Frost told CNN the search has been interminable:
“We have gone thousands of miles and tirelessly went to gas stations and pasted up flyers in the low desert, the high desert. We went out to San Diego because she said in the week before she disappeared that she just wanted to go to the beach.”
Because of that much public support, another official search was conducted over the weekend, and this time someone was found. The question is who.
In a press release on Sunday, the San Bernardino county sheriff’s department announced:
“The San Bernardino county sheriff’s department conducted an additional search and rescue operation in the ongoing search for Lauren Cho. During the search, unidentified human remains were located in the rugged terrain of the open desert of Yucca Valley.”
Unidentified human remains. Oof. For now it’s a waiting game as authorities do what they can to identify the body. After all, we’re talking about months in an unforgiving climate; it’s unlikely any human remains would be recognizable at this point. The sheriff’s department says identification could take weeks.
Obviously this could be the worst news for El’s family. But at the same time if she is out there, they need to know. So obviously the wait is a unique torture. Her sister told CNN on Monday:
“The family is just holding our collective breaths. We so badly desire answers but already feel the heartbreak of what the answer could be.”
El’s disappearance got renewed attention thanks to the Gabby Petito case. It’s unclear if that drove the push to get this new search going, but if it’s what it took to find her — or possibly someone else’s missing loved one — we’re just glad there’s a silver lining to the famous case.
Obviously it’s possible this will turn out not to be her, in which case…
Lauren Cho, who answers to the name El, was last seen wearing a yellow t-shirt and jean shorts. She is described as a 5′ 3″ Asian woman with black hair and brown eyes. She has tattoos below her left collarbone and on her right inner arm.
The San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department asks anyone with information on Lauren Cho to contact Detective Edward Hernandez or Sergeant Justin Giles at (909) 387-3589, citing case number 092101115. Anonymous tips can be submitted at WeTip.com.
[Image via Morongo Basin Sheriff’s Department.]