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A Couple, Their 1-Year-Old Daughter, And Their Dog Were Found Dead After Going Missing From A Hike

There were no signs of trauma or wounds on their bodies, and officials are treating the scene as a hazmat situation.

Posted on August 19, 2021, at 11:30 a.m. ET

Noah Berger / AP

A boat crosses Pine Flat Lake in the Sierra National Forest, California.

A couple, their infant daughter, and their dog who were reported missing after going on a hike have been found dead in the remote central California mountains, but officials say they don't yet know what caused their deaths.

The bodies of John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter, Miju, and the family dog were found on Tuesday in an area called the Devil's Gulch. Search teams also located their car near a gate to the Sierra National Forest.

"This is never the outcome we want or the news we want to deliver, my heart breaks for their family," Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said in a statement. "Our Sheriff’s Chaplains and staff are working with their family and will continue to support them during this heartbreaking time."

The sheriff said officials are treating the scene as a hazmat and coroner investigation because they don't know what caused the family's death.

"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 spokesperson with the sheriff's office, told the Los Angeles Times.

Mitchell also told USA Today there were no signs of trauma or wounds on the bodies.

"We aren't ruling anything out at this point," she said.

The sheriff's office did not immediately respond to calls or emails.

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Gerrish and Chung.

The family, who Briese said moved to central California last year during the pandemic, had gone out for a hike on Sunday.

By Monday, a missing persons report had been filed. Gerrish, a software engineer, did not show up to work that day, and a nanny who was scheduled to look after Miju said nobody came to the door when she rang the bell, the Fresno Bee reported.

Family friend Steve Jeffe told the Fresno Bee, "You had to figure it wasn’t an overnight hike, because it’s been hot and they had the baby with them."

Gerrish was from England, and Chung was from Southern California. The couple moved from San Francisco to be near the mountains, Jeffe said, and wanted to raise their daughter in a more serene environment.

The sheriff's office and the California Department of Justice are conducting the investigation.

UPDATE

This article has been updated with photos of the couple.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.