Update: Remains found in in the desert of California's Yucca Valley earlier this month have been identified as those of New Jersey music teacher Lauren Cho, 30, who disappeared at the end of June. However, the cause of death has not yet been determined, reports KTLA, and the results of toxicology tests are pending. Our original story from Sept. 27 follows:
As the hunt for Brian Laundrie continues in the Gabby Petito case, a three-month-old missing persons case on the other side of the country is now under the spotlight, though not many questions have been answered since Lauren Cho vanished near Joshua Tree National Park. People reports that the Morongo Basin Sheriff's Department has teamed up with the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department in the search for the 30-year-old New Jersey music teacher, who'd driven cross-country with a former boyfriend to make a fresh start in the Golden State.
Cody Orell, the ex who'd invited Cho to join him in his drive out west over the winter, told the Hi-Desert Star in July that he was with Cho on June 28 at the residence they were staying at when he briefly went into the tour bus they'd used to travel to California. "There was a 10-minute window there and she evaporated," he says. He reported her missing at around 5:10pm local time that day. Per the sheriff's report, Cho had been upset before wandering off into the hills between Yucca Valley and Morongo Valley, and friends say she left without her phone, food, or water. Authorities have conducted both ground and aerial searches, including one involving seven police dogs, in the area where she was last seen, to no avail.
The AP notes Cho's case gained renewed interest in the wake of the media frenzy around Petito, with questions arising on "why the public spotlight so important to finding missing people has left other cases shrouded in uncertainty"—namely, those of people of color. Meanwhile, Orell and other friends can't figure out why Cho would've just wandered off, especially because she'd just purchased an old school bus to convert into a food truck. A friend told the Star she also wouldn't have abandoned her pet parakeet, Pork Chop. "She would be worried if she was going to be away from him for a day," RJ Okay says. Anyone with information about Cho is asked to call San Bernardino authorities at 909-387-3589 or 800-78-CRIME (27463).