Human remains were discovered in a California desert during a search for a missing New Jersey woman who vanished after walking away from her Airbnb, authorities said.
The unidentified remains were found Saturday in rugged terrain in the open desert of Southern California’s Yucca Valley, where investigators were scouring for clues in the search for Lauren “El” Cho, 30, who was last seen leaving a rental home on June 28.
The remains were taken to a coroner’s office for identification and the process may take up to several weeks, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office.
“No further information will be released until the identity of the deceased had been confirmed,” sheriff officials said in a statement Sunday.
Cho, who recently moved from New Jersey to the West Coast, was last seen wearing jean shorts and a yellow top when she walked away from the Benmar Trail Airbnb where she was staying with friends and an ex-boyfriend, Inside Edition reported.
Cho, who graduated from Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, was last seen on a remote hiking trail after leaving her personal belongings behind following an argument, Inside Edition reported earlier this month.
A sheriff’s department spokeswoman told the outlet Cho’s ex reported her missing some three hours later while saying she was mentally distressed. Cho’s former boyfriend, later identified as Cory Orell, was fully cooperating with investigators, Inside Edition reported.
Cho’s sister posted on a Facebook page dedicated to finding the New Jersey native last month that “someone knows what happened” to the talented musician and baking enthusiast who loved her family, especially her niece.
“Continue to remember her name and that she hasn’t been found yet — and we need her home,” the heartbreaking Sept. 20 post read. “Somebody knows something.”
A former boss of Cho’s in New Jersey declined to comment when reached by The Post early Monday, saying her family had asked for privacy until investigators released more information about Saturday’s discovery.
The last known person who saw Cho was Orell, the Hi-Desert Star reported in July. She was in search of a new life out west and drove across the country in Orell’s tour bus after meeting up through mutual friends on Memorial Day, the newspaper reported.
The pair had ended their journey in Bombay Beach in December and Cho was in the process of converting an old school bus into a food truck, Orell said. The former New Jersey high school music teacher apparently walked away as Orell went into the tour bus, he told the Hi-Desert Star.
“There was a 10-minute window there and she evaporated,” Orell told the outlet. “I searched all in the hills and no tracks, anywhere.”
Orell said in July he believed Cho got into a vehicle with someone after heading to California in search of a “different life,” the newspaper reported.
“She wanted to move from the East Coast and taste freedom,” Orell said. “She quit her job and moved into the bus with me.”
The Facebook page dedicated to finding Cho said several sources have confirmed she was not “under the influence of anything” at the time of her disappearance while dismissing speculation about her mental health as baseless.
“Let’s talk character defamation for a quick second,” an Oct. 7 posting read. “The family has ignored the crass attempts directed at us. The accusations are baseless, and thus easily disproved.”
Some critics have pointed to Cho’s case as being part of a racist double standard for people of color when compared to instances of resources utilized in cases of missing white women like Gabby Petito, 22, whose disappearance out west in late August while trekking the country with boyfriend Brian Laundrie set off a media frenzy and a nationwide manhunt.
Petito’s death has been ruled a homicide, while FBI agents continue to hunt for Laundrie.
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