CA - Jonathan Gerrish, Ellen Chung, daughter, 1 & dog, suspicious death hiking area, Aug 2021 #5

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RedHaus

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MOO Wouldn’t the dog and the baby have shown signs of heat distress long before they got down to the river? Marble Point is a great vantage point to view the surroundings and consider options. I’m trying to understand this from their POV but the fact there is a dog and a baby to consider is beyond my comprehension. The choice of this hike, on this day, under those conditions makes absolutely no sense.
RS&BBM
Well, since many of us are perseverating our theories (understandably, since we each have our unique perspectives and so desperately want to help figure this mystery out), I'll join in but briefly. One of my first posts on this case questioned how far the family actually hiked. And since our fellow paramedic and veterinarian shared clinical data on the effects of heat on wee babies and furry dogs, I believe one or both of the dependents were incapacitated within 30 minutes, as I think you suggest.
 

RedHaus

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According to the sheriff, they were doing the loop, and only had a "small amount" of water left. Source: "Not One Clue" Those facts are not consistent with being poisoned by their drinking water after only a short hike.
BBM
Well, @Lex Parsimoniae, I believe you are assuming that having a "small amount" of water left in their bladder meant they had hiked a fair distance. But for that assumption to be true, doesn't it require the family started their day with a full or nearly full bladder? But we actually have no idea how much water they started with.
 

IceIce9

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Just an example of how quickly things can go wrong, even with experienced hikers: My dad and I were hiking in a remote part of Death Valley, in the summer. We were well-prepared with a car full of water, ice, snacks etc.

We were driving a rental car that we had picked up at the airport. Unbeknownst to us, the rental car had a “safety” feature where the doors locked automatically if the keys were left in the ignition.

We had parked in a spot off a gravel road, and were going to get our backpacks, water, hats, sunblock, etc. out of the back seat. We got out of the car and both shut our doors at the same time, and heard a loud “click” as all four doors locked.

We were locked out of our car, in 115 degree heat, somewhere deep into Death Valley. We hadn’t seen another human being for hours. Our ample supply of water, food, and ice was inside the car, along with cellphones, maps, etc. We weren’t even in an actual parking lot. We hadn’t let anyone know where we were going to be that day, as we were on a ten day trip hiking trails in three states with no set itinerary.

Fortunately I had been able to force something in beside the rear window, making enough of a gap that I could trigger the lock. We would have broken a window to get in if we needed to.

But it did make us think about all the things that could go wrong. We only had one key to the vehicle, what if we had lost it while hiking? And why didn’t we let anyone know our itinerary?

When you are hiking in extreme conditions truly one lapse in judgement can be fatal.
 
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Pumphouse363

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Not sure the rules about quoting social media, so won't quote directly, but has anyone ventured over to the Mariposa County Sheriff's Facebook page? They had a press release about the case on September 30th. In reading the comments, I noticed one poster, in particular, "Chuck Stone" who claims to be a former CALFIRE captain and suffered HS with his dogs and wife on the Savage-Lundy in similar extreme heat and almost died. He posted a few times in response to others, if you're interested in reading his comments. If you take him as credible, (IMO) it makes accidental HS seem very plausible given EC/JG's situation and various factors. And also interesting that an experienced CALFIRE captain could find themselves similarly caught off guard and vulnerable. ETA: tried to link the FB page, but couldn't.
I think heatstroke is highly possible. What I find totally improbable is Jon and Ellen on that trail with Miju and Oski . I know that’s where they were discovered, I hear all the reasons of why they may have been there, I just can’t process it. There is nothing I’ve read or heard that
RS&BBM
Well, since many of us are perseverating our theories (understandably, since we each have our unique perspectives and so desperately want to help figure this mystery out), I'll join in but briefly. One of my first posts on this case questioned how far the family actually hiked. And since our fellow paramedic and veterinarian shared clinical data on the effects of heat on wee babies and furry dogs, I believe one or both of the dependents were incapacitated within 30 minutes, as I think you suggest.
Thank you - yes - so how did they end up on the SL trail?
 

Pumphouse363

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Just an example of how quickly things can go wrong, even with experienced hikers: My dad and I were hiking in a remote part of Death Valley, in the summer. We were well-prepared with a car full of water, ice, snacks etc.

We were driving a rental car that we had picked up at the airport. Unbeknownst to us, the rental car had a “safety” feature where the doors locked automatically if the keys were left in the ignition.

We had parked in a spot off a gravel road, and were going to get our backpacks, water, hats, sunblock, etc. out of the back seat. We got out of the car and both shut our doors at the same time, and heard a loud “click” as all four doors locked.

We were locked out of our car, in 115 degree heat, somewhere deep into Death Valley. We hadn’t seen another human being for hours. Our ample supply of water, food, and ice was inside the car, along with cellphones, maps, etc. We weren’t even in an actual parking lot. We hadn’t let anyone know where we were going to be that day, as we were on a ten day trip hiking trails in three states with no set itinerary.

Fortunately I had been able to force something in beside the rear window, making enough of a gap that I could trigger the lock. We would have broken a window to get in if we needed to.

But it did make us think about all the things that could go wrong. We only had one key to the vehicle, what if we had lost it while hiking? And why didn’t we let anyone know our itinerary?

When you are hiking in extreme conditions truly one lapse in judgement can be fatal.
Thank you - but you didn’t have a baby and a dog with you?
 

Auntie Cipation

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BBM
Well, @Lex Parsimoniae, I believe you are assuming that having a "small amount" of water left in their bladder meant they had hiked a fair distance. But for that assumption to be true, doesn't it require the family started their day with a full or nearly full bladder? But we actually have no idea how much water they started with.

And even if they had most of their water remaining when trouble first struck, they could have used much of it up pouring it over the dog or baby (whoever it was that first appeared to be in distress).

It's even possible they also had some bottles of water which got consumed -- although I'm sure these folks were normally conscientious about litter, in an emergency that might have fallen by the wayside. LE might not have reported empty water bottles found elsewhere along the route, or any bottles might not have been found yet at the time LE updated the public.

One reason I suspect they might have started with additional bottles of water is how awkward it seems it would have been to give the dog water from a bladder. Even if they had a portable water bowl for the dog, how do you get water from a camelbak other than by sucking on the tube? Filling a dogbowl that way would be really awkward IMO. Or maybe there is a way to let water gravity flow out the tube? I'm not familiar with camelbaks.
 

RedHaus

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Thank you - yes - so how did they end up on the SL trail?
RS&BBM
I still contend they started down the SL trail that day and only got as far as they did (about 30 +/- minutes into their hike). I know many here hang their hats on initial LE statements the family was likely 'near the end of their loop' (paraphrasing), but I leave open the possibility LE's further investigation of prints revealed new information.

Earlier up thread, I described why I think this - the reasons the initial set of prints LE interpreted may not have been reliable. So I am repeating myself here:

1) SAR's work on the trails to find and recover the bodies on Tuesday and Wednesday (with presumably no suspicion of anything nefarious at the time),
2) Storm cells OPs documented went through late on Sunday - presumably dropping some rain and perhaps with winds strong enough to shift dirt, and
3) Since they lived near by, there is a distinct possibility the family was on one or more of the same trails a prior time and left behind some prints.​
 

MrsEmmaPeel

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A weird connection. . .bear with me. I'm watching a true crime show on Netflix, HOUSE OF SECRETS, about a bizarre case in India. 10 household family members found hung to death, hanging in a pattern from an iron ventilation grate. 1 member found strangled. Other family members swore it was murder and demanded police treat it as such. Police agreed but kept investigating. Evidence overwhelmingly proves not murder.

My point is, sometimes the truth of death is more painful than death(s) itself. Watching this show, I was reminded: We rarely understand the actions of others. What goes on in a family is not necessarily what the public sees.
 

rahod1

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RS&BBM
I still contend they started down the SL trail that day and only got as far as they did (about 30 +/- minutes into their hike). I know many here hang their hats on initial LE statements the family was likely 'near the end of their loop' (paraphrasing), but I leave open the possibility LE's further investigation of prints revealed new information.

Earlier up thread, I described why I think this - the reasons the initial set of prints LE interpreted may not have been reliable. So I am repeating myself here:

1) SAR's work on the trails to find and recover the bodies on Tuesday and Wednesday (with presumably no suspicion of anything nefarious at the time),
2) Storm cells OPs documented went through late on Sunday - presumably dropping some rain and perhaps with winds strong enough to shift dirt, and
3) Since they lived near by, there is a distinct possibility the family was on one or more of the same trails a prior time and left behind some prints.​
BBM
I'm in the other camp because I'm taking what LE found as valid. They stated that prints compatible with a family AND DOG were found at the upper section of HC road heading down. Also, I don't think that hiking DOWN SL for 30 min or 1.5 miles (where they were found) starting at 8AM, would be sufficient time to incapacitate the two adults at that point. In addition, they were facing UPHILL, although that could be interpreted as a *turnaround*. Again, it if they went DOWN SL there *should* be prints indicating this. MOO
 
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And even if they had most of their water remaining when trouble first struck, they could have used much of it up pouring it over the dog or baby (whoever it was that first appeared to be in distress).

It's even possible they also had some bottles of water which got consumed -- although I'm sure these folks were normally conscientious about litter, in an emergency that might have fallen by the wayside. LE might not have reported empty water bottles found elsewhere along the route, or any bottles might not have been found yet at the time LE updated the public.

One reason I suspect they might have started with additional bottles of water is how awkward it seems it would have been to give the dog water from a bladder. Even if they had a portable water bowl for the dog, how do you get water from a camelbak other than by sucking on the tube? Filling a dogbowl that way would be really awkward IMO. Or maybe there is a way to let water gravity flow out the tube? I'm not familiar with camelbaks.

And baby wasn’t drinking from a straw. Maybe a bottle or other sippy cup but, IMO, babies can’t suck from straws let alone one from a bladder contraption.
 

MrsEmmaPeel

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Just an example of how quickly things can go wrong, even with experienced hikers: My dad and I were hiking in a remote part of Death Valley, in the summer. We were well-prepared with a car full of water, ice, snacks etc.

We were driving a rental car that we had picked up at the airport. Unbeknownst to us, the rental car had a “safety” feature where the doors locked automatically if the keys were left in the ignition.

We had parked in a spot off a gravel road, and were going to get our backpacks, water, hats, sunblock, etc. out of the back seat. We got out of the car and both shut our doors at the same time, and heard a loud “click” as all four doors locked.

We were locked out of our car, in 115 degree heat, somewhere deep into Death Valley. We hadn’t seen another human being for . . . .

It was difficult to "Like" your post, @IceIce9. Harrowing! And so true about venturing even to set foot in difficult locales. Also found story of firefighter overcome by heat while hiking-- a compelling story shared by @Karuna.
 
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As a gardener I went the plant thought route…

What about poisonous fruit? Nightshade (Parish’s nightshade) is grown in that region of CA and immediately deadly after about 10 berries for an adult. Causes almost same symptoms as heatstroke - oddly.

Also Moonseed is just as toxic but I’m unable to determine its growing region. Moonseed looks like grapes.

I’ve seen wild raspberries and such on hikes and so, while I know this is previously a fire area, they’re small shrubs so possible they’re growing again already.
 

Karuna

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I think heatstroke is highly possible. What I find totally improbable is Jon and Ellen on that trail with Miju and Oski . I know that’s where they were discovered, I hear all the reasons of why they may have been there, I just can’t process it. There is nothing I’ve read or heard that

Thank you - yes - so how did they end up on the SL trail?

@Pumphouse363 Regrettably, most likely, because they chose to be there (MOO). Yes, it's hard to swallow, but (to perseverate) they very well could have underestimated the risk for being out a short bit, gotten delayed, and then the rest is tragedy. The CALFIRE captain I spoke about upthread also chose to be there, made some poor choices, and brought multiple dogs. It doesn't have to make sense to be true, sadly.
 

Auntie Cipation

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There is a blog I follow (gardening, recipes, DIY house projects etc) written by a woman on the east coast of the US. She and her husband have only been there a few years, previously from the west coast.

Today's post reminded me of this case -- the blogger described how a neighbor recently mentioned a nearby hike -- one half mile but fairly steep (some rock scrambling), with motivating views from the top. The blogger and hubby decided to try it. As they set off, it turns out that she brought neither map nor even water, because "half a mile" sounded so minor. Foolish.

But the point is, they made a wrong turn somewhere, got off trail, and ended up hiking probably three miles. Got out ok (no extreme weather to contend with) but hopefully learned a lesson about being prepared -- in this case they not only failed to prepare for the unexpected but didn't even IMO prepare properly for the intended hike.

But it's the occurrence of the unexpected I wanted to post here, just because it seems to be so very common once we start paying attention. And of course several of her commenters told of their own similar hiking close-calls.

It seems that people do underassess the risk of something going wrong all the time, but IMO we only tend to notice it when there are serious consequences, or if we're lucky we notice and learn a lesson when we have "merely" a close call.

MOO
 
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There is a blog I follow (gardening, recipes, DIY house projects etc) written by a woman on the east coast of the US. She and her husband have only been there a few years, previously from the west coast.

Today's post reminded me of this case -- the blogger described how a neighbor recently mentioned a nearby hike -- one half mile but fairly steep (some rock scrambling), with motivating views from the top. The blogger and hubby decided to try it. As they set off, it turns out that she brought neither map nor even water, because "half a mile" sounded so minor. Foolish.

But the point is, they made a wrong turn somewhere, got off trail, and ended up hiking probably three miles. Got out ok (no extreme weather to contend with) but hopefully learned a lesson about being prepared -- in this case they not only failed to prepare for the unexpected but didn't even IMO prepare properly for the intended hike.

But it's the occurrence of the unexpected I wanted to post here, just because it seems to be so very common once we start paying attention. And of course several of her commenters told of their own similar hiking close-calls.

It seems that people do underassess the risk of something going wrong all the time, but IMO we only tend to notice it when there are serious consequences, or if we're lucky we notice and learn a lesson when we have "merely" a close call.

MOO

I read her too! And she’s usually fairly level-headed and thinks things through. It can happen to anyone was the moral I gleaned.
 

HannahJJJ

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This quietness may be the effect of several factors. Jon's family is British. They are far more reticent, in my experience, than middle class Americans. (Witness Gabby's family holding press conferences sporting matching tattoos.) Not to mention Jon's family has been kept away by covid restrictions.
Ellen's family is Asian. Similar cultural differences. IMO, these two cultures are more circumspect, less attention-seeking.
Then we have the area. This is not Marin County or Santa Barbara. This is akin to Appalachia or the Salton Sea, imo. There are the gentrifiers who come in and buy up property because it's "cheap," and there are the locals struggling to earn a living remodeling, cleaning those properties. It takes time -- years and years-- to build community. To build a network of like-minded friends. Often, this does not happen until a child goes to school. J and E chose a place that can be as isolated and remote as the desert.
Finally, we have no idea what they struggled with as a couple, as new parents, as new residents of a rural, backward place. One may put a social media spin on it. A happy face. But that's not always how it is, inside.

That may (or may not) be true of British and Asian-American individuals in general, so possibly true of their families, Moo, but I don't see it that way. Moo, an Entire family, with a beautiful Child and a man's best friend, an Animal who graced the Gerrish-Chung lives, died in a remote, inhospitable area due to unknown reasons. Moo, most family members and friends, best buddies, grieving and Wanting answers, most people in this situation regardless of their heritage, would not be so reticent to talk (unless LE has instructed them/advised them to stay quiet?? Moo). It's my impression, Moo, that the Gerrish-Chungs themselves probably had friends from many, many different nationalities including American friends, even very close American friends/buddies who they had met at Burning Man events where racial inclusion, self-expression, authenticity, openness, breaking free of nationality/ethnic stereotypes are encouraged (only what I've read about BM, never been to one). Moo. All Moo.
 
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MrsEmmaPeel

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That may (or may not) be true of British and Asian-American individuals in general, so possibly true of their families, Moo, but I don't see it that way. Moo, an Entire family, with a beautiful Child and a man's best friend, an Animal who graced the Gerrish-Chung lives, died in a remote, inhospitable area due to unknown reasons. Moo, most family members and friends, best buddies, grieving and Wanting answers, most people in this situation regardless of their heritage, would not be so reticent to talk (unless LE has instructed them/advised them to stay quiet?? Moo). It's my impression, Moo, that the Gerrish-Chungs themselves probably had friends from many, many different nationalities including American friends, even very close American friends/buddies who they had met at Burning Man events where racial inclusion, self-expression, authenticity, openness, breaking free of nationality/ethnic stereotypes are encouraged (only what I've read about BM, never been to one). Moo. All Moo.

You're absolutely right, @HannahJJJ, and in step with current beliefs. I'm old. People who grieve privately rather than on social media are more familiar to me. Pain is not easily assauged, and sitting with it is no longer in vogue.
 

jonjon747

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A weird connection. . .bear with me. I'm watching a true crime show on Netflix, HOUSE OF SECRETS, about a bizarre case in India. 10 household family members found hung to death, hanging in a pattern from an iron ventilation grate. 1 member found strangled. Other family members swore it was murder and demanded police treat it as such. Police agreed but kept investigating. Evidence overwhelmingly proves not murder.

My point is, sometimes the truth of death is more painful than death(s) itself. Watching this show, I was reminded: We rarely understand the actions of others. What goes on in a family is not necessarily what the public sees.

Although I haven't seen the documentary yet, there seems to be a consensus about the case in which it's more of a superstitious, cult practice.
 

al66pine

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....My point was that if the whole loop was doable by the S&R team without much struggle or causing any serious health issues, there's no way that this family should've been all dead....
@jonjon747 bbm sbm. Respectfully, do we know as a fact that S&R covered the entire loop "without much struggle or causing any serious health issues"???
I don't recall temps on day & time of couple's hike, compared to temps when S&R conducted searches, two days later, iirc.

Pls bear in mind, I've not read all posts here or all Sheriff's/LE/S&R releases on this, but I doubt their mission was a piece of cake. Just wondering. my2ct.
 
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