The family of three and their pet dog who were found dead on a remote hiking trail had reportedly moved from San Francisco to Central California to be closer to nature.
Jonathan Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter Miju and their dog were found by authorities on Tuesday, August 17, after they reportedly went on a hike on Sunday, August 15. The family was said to have been found close to an isolated spot dubbed as Devil’s Gulch in the Sierra National Forest.
Family friend Steve Jeffe told the Fresno Bee that the family moved during the coronavirus pandemic when Gerrish was given the opportunity to work from home.
Gerrish, who was a software engineer, and his wife had wanted to raise their daughter in a quiet area where they could be surrounded by open-air and be close to the mountains to go hiking or camping, the friend said.
"You had to figure it wasn’t an overnight hike, because it’s been hot and they had the baby with them," Jeffe told the outlet. "Jon was supposed to work Monday and never showed up. That raised more concerns."
Authorities discovered the family vehicle close to the Sierra National Forest gate leading to Hites Cove in the Jerseydale area before finding their bodies a short time later.
The Mariposa County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that the investigation is being conducted by Sheriff personnel and the California Department of Justice. The statement explained that the current information from the scene does not paint a clear picture of what happened to the family or what a cause of death may have been. "The scene is currently being handled as a hazmat and coroner investigation," the statement read.
"This is never the outcome we want or the news we want to deliver, my heart breaks for their family. Our Sheriff’s Chaplains and staff are working with their family and will continue to support them during this heartbreaking time," Sheriff Jeremy Briese said.
"It could be a carbon monoxide situation. That’s one of the reasons why we’re treating it as a hazmat situation," Kristie Mitchell, a sherrif's office spokeswoman told Associated Press.
Mitchell told the outlet that the area where the bodies were found did not have cellphone service.