Mariposa County, California, police remain intrigued by the mysterious death of a family in the Sierra National Forest park. John Gerrish, 45, Ellen Chung, 31, their 1-year-old daughter Miju, and their dog were found dead on a trail through the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
According to People magazine, they had gone out on Sunday (15th) but never returned home. The next day, their relatives reported the disappearance to the police, but it was not until Tuesday (17) that the bodies were found. Initially, a homicide was considered, but the hypothesis is practically ruled out. An initial autopsy also yielded no clarifying results.
“It’s so tragic and mysterious”, lamented Steven Jeffe, a family friend, to The Washington Post. According to him, despite the pain, no one can be at peace due to the lack of answers about what happened. “We are devastated by the loss. But I think the community is more like, ‘What the hell happened?’ It’s so crazy”, he stated.
The conditions of the incident also surprised the police. The corporation’s spokeswoman, Kristie Mitchell, said no physical injuries, signs of trauma, or suicide notes were identified that indicated the deaths had been intentional. “To come across a scene where everyone is involved, including the dog in the family that passed away, that’s not a typical thing we’ve ever seen, or that any other agency has seen.”, she told the Fresno Bee newspaper.
Various possibilities on the table
As investigations continue, officials look into a range of possibilities for the causes of the deaths. “Researchers considered whether toxic gases, toxic algae and carbon monoxide may have contributed to the deaths”, Mitchell said. “We are not focusing on a specific cause right now. There are still many that we cannot rule out. I think it will be a very long and in-depth investigation, because it’s not as clear as other cases are.”, she added.
But the main suspicion is that the family would have been contaminated with water from a river in the region, which would be contaminated with toxins released by algae. This Tuesday (24), the Mariposa sheriff’s office said it is confident that the cause of death will be revealed with drug tests of the victims. In addition, the dog’s autopsy may provide more clues to unravel this mystery.
The water hypothesis would make a lot of sense, as on July 13, the California Department of Fisheries and Wildlife warned that water testing “revealed a high concentration of algal blooms” on the Merced River, which is close to where the family was found. Even as the agency explained, “some species can produce toxins that pose a risk to humans and pets”. Therefore, there was an alert for people not to swim in the water and not let their pets swim there.
The results of the exams, which also evaluated the waters in the region, as well as the water the couple took, should come out within two weeks. With them, the expectation is that this enigma will come to an end. Anyway, it’s a story with a lot of sadness…