A Northern California family reported missing on Monday, August 16, 2021, was found dead in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest on August 17, 2021, according to the local sheriff's office.
Around 11p Monday, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office began a search and rescue mission after John Gerrish, Ellen Chung and their 1-year-old daughter, Muji, were reported missing.
Search teams located the family's vehicle near the Sierra National Forest gate leading into an area known as Hites Cove. Shortly after, the search teams found the family, along with their dog, dead near the Merced River drainage in an area known as Devil's Gulch.
“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 in a statement.
The sheriff's department is conducting an investigation into the family's death alongside the California Department of Justice. Mariposa County public information officer Kristie Mitchell told the Associated Press the deaths would be treated as a hazmat situation and confirmed to USA TODAY the reasoning may be due to the hazardous environment, which may have toxic algae and carbon monoxide, where the family was found.
"We aren't specifically saying this is carbon monoxide, we aren't saying it's toxic algae, we aren't saying that it couldn't be something else. What we wanted to do was just take extra precautions because there are additional hazards in the area," Mitchell said.
Mitchell added there were no signs of trauma or gunshot wounds, and there was no suicide note. Still, there is no clear indication of what caused the family's death.
"That's a hard question to answer. We aren't ruling anything out at this point," she said.
This case file was posted on
Aug 18, 2021 at 18:55
This case file was last modified on
Oct 21, 2021 at 18:20
This case file has been assigned the Missing Persons ID 6220
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