"Until you are in the same situation … you don’t know how you would react"

Two Joshua Tree hikers have died in a “sympathetic murder-suicide”.

USA Today reports that an autopsy report on Friday revealed that Joseph Orbeso, 21, and Rachel Nguyen, 20 died of gunshot wounds, which are now believed to be a murder-suicide.

The pair were missing for three months after going for a hike in Joshua Tree National Park in July and failing to return to their B&B. Search screws spent over 2,100 hours looking for them before finding their bodies on 15 October.

Orbeso is believed to have shot Nguyen before turning the gun on himself. However, Nguyen’s family have said that it was not an act of murder but one of compassion.

“It was explained to us by the investigators on scene, with the circumstances and positioning of the bodies, that they believe this was a sympathetic murder-suicide,” Son Nguyen, Rachel’s uncle, said.

“Rachel possibly injured herself sliding down a cliff and Joseph went after her and took care of her,” Nguyen added.

Rachel Nguyen’s t-shit was rapped around her head like a bandage.

“They found a tree to provide some shade,” Nguyen’s uncle said. Orbeso had used his shirt to cover Nguyen’s legs to protect them from the sun and heat.

“Until you are in the same situation … you don’t know how you would react,” he added.

Nguyen and Orbeso had been rationing food but were unable to find water nearby, San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cynthia Buchman said. Bachman also believes that Orbeso had wanted to harm Nguyen.