THIS BLOG IS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER – PLEASE SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM FOR UPDATES
Ellen Chung and her partner Jonathan Gerrish enjoyed being outdoors and hiking – it was a hobby that they participated in almost every weekend, usually taking their dog Oski with them. The couple welcomed their baby daughter Aurelia Miju in August 2020. They had recently moved from San Francisco to Mariposa – around 3-4 hours away. Online comments say that the pandemic meant that Jonathan could work for Google from home instead of being in the office, so they chose to move away from the city.
You can see their social media accounts here –
In August 2021, the couple decided to take a hike with their daughter and the family dog into the Devil’s Gulch in the South Fork of the Merced River drainage. The last communication made by the couple was a photo posted of a baby backpack that they took hiking at 6.45am on August 15.
On Monday August 16, alarm bells started to ring for the couple’s family and friends. They had not returned home and did not show up for work. A family friend reported the family missing at 11pm on Monday.
Police started searching for the family early on Tuesday morning. The quickly discovered the couple’s gray Ford Raptor parked near the Sierra National Forest gate.
Sadly, the bodies of the entire family and the dog were found between 9.30-10am on Tuesday. They were found in a very remote area with no cell phone service. There was no obvious signs of trauma on any of their bodies – no signs of violence, no evidence of a fall.
Reports say that all the bodies were found ON the trail and not in a tent. “We’re processing the scene right now. There’s no clear indication of cause of death,” Deputy Kristie Mitchell said.
Mitchell said that due to mines in the area and because there is no clear indication of the cause of death, the scene is being treated as a hazmat scene for the safety of everyone responding.
“Coming across a scene where everyone involved, including the family dog that is deceased, that is not a typical thing that we have seen or other agencies have seen,” Mitchell said. “That is why we’re treating it as a hazmat situation. We just don’t know.”
Mitchell also did not rule out possible exposure to toxic algae. ‘There are several abandoned mines up in the area and in an abundance of caution or recovery team is taking precautions for any poisonous gases, particles in the area,’ Mitchell added. ‘So far, there has been no measurable poisons registered.’
UPDATE – August 22
Authorities have said they do not believe the family were murdered.
This info is from Fox 10 Phoenix:
The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office is confident that they can rule out homicide in the mysterious deaths of a family on a hiking trail in the Sierra National Forest earlier this week.
The couple, John Gerrish and Ellen Chung, set out for a hike on Sunday with their 1-year-old daughter, Miju, and their dog near Hite’s Cove in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
After Gerrish, a software engineer who formerly worked at Google according to his LinkedIn profile, didn’t show up for work on Monday, a family friend reported them missing. Google did not respond to a request for comment.
Their bodies were found Tuesday on a hiking trail with no clear cause of death, and while homicide was initially considered as a possibility, law enforcement is now confident that they can rule it out.
“Initially, yes, when we come across a family with no apparent cause of death, there’s no smoking gun, there’s no suicide note, there’s nothing like that, we have to consider all options,” Mariposa County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kristie Mitchell told FOX News on Saturday. “Now that we’re five days in, no, we’re no longer considering homicide as a cause of death.”
“We’re hoping that within the next week, two weeks, we’ll have a better idea,” Mitchell said. “There’s toxicology that we’re waiting for from the autopsies themselves, and then also from the [necropsy for the dog].”
Investigators are looking at a range of causes, including toxic algae blooms and toxic gases. The site was being treated as a hazmat situation on Tuesday but that was lifted about 24 hours later.
UPDATE – October 20, 2021
A press conference is scheduled for tomorrow where authorities will allegedly reveal the causes of death.
On October 21, the Mariposa County Sheriff held a press conference, revealing that the family died from hyperthermia and dehydration.
This is a developing story – join us to discuss at TrueCrimeSociety.com