Remains found in a California desert earlier this month have been positively identified as those of 30-year-old New Jersey woman Lauren Cho, who disappeared in June. Determination of the cause and manner of death is pending toxicology results, the San Bernardino County Coroner’s Division said in a news release.
Cho, known to her friends as ‘El’, moved to California from New Jersey in the fall of 2020 to start a new life. She reportedly quit her job as a music teacher in New Jersey to pursue her passion of traveling and converting a bus into a food truck. Her disappearance sparked concern among her family and friends, who set up a Facebook page to publicize her case and seek information on her whereabouts.
The page was flooded with messages of support and well wishes from family, friends, and fans as people shared their memories of the multi-talented entertainer. Many echoed the same message from Cho’s parents, urging people to respect the process of searching for her and to not speculate on her cause of disappearance.
On October 9, police discovered human remains in the rugged terrain of Yucca Valley, about 30 miles from Palm Springs, during their search for Cho. Officials have not yet released a cause of death, and they are awaiting toxicology results, which could take weeks to complete.
A search for Cho was launched the day she vanished after she walked away from an Airbnb rental in Morongo Valley, California. Authorities have searched the desert surrounding the home numerous times, including with dogs on the ground and helicopters in the sky.
However, despite the months-long search for Cho, there has been no sign of her. She is believed to have wandered into the desert, where she could have become lost and unable to find her way back.
Police say there is no indication of foul play in her disappearance. The heightened focus on Cho’s case is likely due to the media fervor surrounding the disappearance of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie, who were both found dead in Wyoming. Petito’s case has spurred a discussion on social media about “missing white woman syndrome,” referring to the increased awareness and urgency in cases of missing white women compared to those of people of color.
The disappearance of Cho has also prompted conversations about the lack of similar fervor and urgency for the cases of missing people of color, particularly those in the Black community. Some people have argued that this is due to the media’s tendency to sensationalize the cases of missing Black people and other minorities. However, many are also calling out the exploitation of these grieving families for attention and profit. Regardless of the causes and effects, the loss of a loved one is always a tragedy. The search for Cho continues, and her friends and family are continuing to hold out hope that she will be found soon.