Lauren Cho


SAN BERNARDINO — Human remains found in the Southern California desert this month have been identified as those of a New Jersey woman who went missing early last summer, authorities said Thursday.

The coroner’s office positively identified the remains to be Lauren “El” Cho, 30, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.

“The cause and manner of death is pending toxicology results,” it said. “No further information will be released on this case until such time toxicology results are available and new information is discovered as a result.”

The remains were found Oct. 9 in rugged, open desert in Yucca Valley, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.

Cho had been missing since the afternoon of June 28, when she walked away from a residence in the area where she was staying, according to her ex-boyfriiend.

Multiple searches were conducted in Yucca Valley, which is outside the northwest corner of Joshua Tree National Park.

The Korean American woman’s case is one of many involving people of color that don’t get much public attention. Complaints about a phenomenon known as “missing white woman syndrome” soared during the search for Gabby Petito, a white 22-year-old whose body was found in Wyoming after she vanished during a cross-country trip with her boyfriend that she chronicled on social media.

Cho worked as an apprentice at Diamond Heart Studios before she left for her trip.

“She is a real person, with real friends & family here in New Jersey,” the tattoo studio posted on Instagram when the search was under way. “Keep advocating for her to be found. Don’t buy into the speculation. Keep searching and sharing.”

Family described Cho as a a talented musician, an incredible baker, and a hilarious and loyal friend. They said that she was the “coolest sister one could hope for” and she “really shines” as an aunt.

The family said in a Facebook statement they understand the frustrations of “missing white woman syndrome” but cautioned that differences between cases “run deeper than what meets the public eye.”

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