The uncle of a young woman killed in an apparent murder-suicide in Joshua Tree National Park says she may have been killed out of compassion. Investigators believe Joseph Orbeso, 21, shot 20-year-old Rachel Nguyen before turning the handgun on himself. The bodies were found in an "embrace" last week, more than three months after they disappeared while hiking. Investigators explained "with the circumstances and positioning of the bodies, that they believe this was a sympathetic murder-suicide," Son Nguyen, Nguyen's uncle, tells the Desert Sun. He says it appears that Orbeso had been looking after Nguyen after she slid down a cliff and suffered a head injury.
The uncle says the couple, who were sheltering under a tree, had run out of water and were rationing food. Orbeso had put his shirt over Nguyen's legs to protect her from the sun. The family "holds no grudges against Joseph or the Orbeso family," he says. Austin Young, Orbeso's best friend, says the pair were good friends who dated briefly a couple of years ago. "I think he brought a gun out there to protect Rachel. I think they got lost and were suffering in 100-degree heat," he tells the OC Register. "They had a choice of a slow and painful death or a quick death," he says. "And they made the choice of a quick death." (Read more murder-suicide stories.)