Remains Found in California Desert Identified as New Jersey Native Lauren Cho, Authorities Say

Remains positively identified as NJ native, Lauren "El" Cho, 30.

The family released a statement saying, "The depths of our collective sorrow feels endless as grief demands space for its accompanying emptiness."

Remains found earlier this month in the San Bernardino desert have been positively identified as New Jersey native Lauren “El” Cho, officials said on Thursday.

The 30-year-old Cho mysteriously disappeared in Southern California’s Yucca Valley on June 28. Cho had been traveling across the country with her former boyfriend, who had reported her missing. 

She was last seen on a remote hiking trail in the Morongo Valley, located north of Palm Springs. 

Mara Rodriguez, a public information officer with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, told Inside Edition Digital that Cho was staying at an Airbnb resort in the Morongo Valley with numerous other guests, including her former boyfriend. 

Rodriguez said during the evening of June 28 Cho was upset and presumably walked away from the resort, leaving behind her personal belongings.

She reportedly did not have any food or water with her and left her cell phone behind, Inside Edition previously reported.

In July, search and rescue teams performed aerial searches in the desert and combed the area on foot using canines in hopes of finding the young woman. A search warrant was also executed on the home where she was staying, officials said.

In late September, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Special Investigation Division became involved after local law enforcement “exhausted their investigation,” NBC News reported.

During the agonizing, months-long search, her story made national headlines as family and friends went on social media trying to locate the young woman and prayed for her safe return.

Described by loved ones as a “super caring, very loving and loyal friend,” Cho was a classically trained soprano, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and had a great passion for cooking. The multi-talented Korean American who had worked as a music educator moved to the California desert in December in search of a new beginning. One of those dreams was to open a food truck. Before she went missing, Cho had bought an old school bus and was converting it, according to a previously reported story in the Hi Desert Star.

In December, Cho and her former boyfriend had settled in the Bombay Beach area, a small community that had become known in recent years for attracting artists, musicians, and people seeking a freer, more creative life. Cho appeared to be a beloved member of the community, who would often cook for its members. One item most everyone raved about was her 'vegan basil' ice cream, Yahoo News reported.

On Oct. 9, unidentified human remains were located in what officials described as “the rugged terrain of the open desert of Yucca Valley.”

The San Bernardino County Coroner’s Division said the cause and manner of death is pending toxicology results, according to a press release 

"No further information will be released on this case until such time toxicology results are available and new information is discovered as a result,” the San Bernardino County Coroner’s Division said.

In July, Cho's family created the Facebook page called Missing Person: Lauren “El’ Cho  offering updates on the investigation and also shared intimate details about the missing woman, affectionally known as “El.” 

One of the posts reads:  "El is many things, a talented musician, an incredible baker, a hilarious and loyal friend, a strangely intuitive gift giver, and probably the coolest sister one could hope for. But this is where El really shines: as an aunt," she said. "The love she has for her nibling is unmatched. Even among family, the consensus is that her nibling is the person El loves most in this world."

Cho graduated from Hunterdon Central Regional High School in 2009. She attended Westminster Choir College and worked as a music educator for a short period of time. She also worked at a piercing and tattoo business in Flemington, NJ, NJ Advance Media reported.

On Friday morning after Cho’s remains were confirmed the family sent out a statement honoring Cho’s memory and sending gratitude to all those who helped in the investigation. Since her disappearance, more than 7,000 people have been following her story.

“My family extends their thanks to all those who have waited with us, stood with us, cried with us, and hoped with us these past several months. The depths of our collective sorrow feels endless as grief demands space for its accompanying emptiness. I ask that you kindly respect the grieving process of the family and close friends who have known and loved El for years,” the family said.

“Immeasurable gratitude and respect to Detective Ables, Detective Hernandez, their respective teams, Investigator Butler, and San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department + Morongo Basin Sheriff's Station for their tireless efforts. We are grateful for all their accommodations, including being able to come and make arrangements in real-time so that El could accompany us as we journeyed back home,” the family said.

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