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‘She Warmed Your Soul’: Mother Found Dead In California Desert After Vanishing During Solo Pandemic Road Trip

“Erika adored everyone... she left a bright smile on everyone’s heart,' Erika Lloyd’s brother wrote on Facebook.

By Dorian Geiger
Missing California Mom Found Dead In Desert

A missing California mother who vanished during a spring road trip turned up dead in a desert field in late January, authorities said this week. 

The skeletal remains of Erika Lloyd, 37, were found near Wonder Valley, California on Jan. 31, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Forensic specialists confirmed Lloyd’s dental records matched the remains.

Authorities haven’t indicated whether foul play is suspected, and the cause and manner of Lloyd’s death aren't yet known. An autopsy is pending. No further details surrounding the investigation were immediately released by law enforcement.

Lloyd, the mother of a 12-year-old boy, was last seen alive on June 14 in Walnut Creek, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her 2006 Honda Accord was spotted by park rangers at a campsite in Joshua Tree National Park, where she had gone on a solo road trip. Her car, which appeared to have been vandalized, had damage to its rear window, windshield and dashboard, according to the San Bernardino Sentinel. The vehicle disappeared from the campsite shortly after it was seen by the rangers. 

On June 16, Lloyd’s Honda was found deserted on State Route 62, according to the California Highway Patrol. She was reported missing by her family the next day.

County authorities subsequently deployed search and rescue teams, hikers, and helicopters to comb over the region's maze of canyons, caves, and desert tundra in the search for Lloyd. No signs of foul play were uncovered by investigators.

Her family previously speculated Lloyd may have been involved in a car accident prior to her disappearance, given the visible damage to her vehicle.

“We don’t know if she had some memory loss when she got hit by the airbag,” her mother, Ruth Lloyd, told KESQ. “Maybe she doesn’t know who she is. We don’t know, we aren’t sure about her mental stage.”

Last week, Lloyd’s brother confirmed that hikers had found the missing mother's remains.

“Right now is the time for grieving and I encourage everyone to pause and reflect on the beautiful soul we’ve lost: our Erika,” Colin Lloyd wrote on Facebook on Feb. 18. “Erika adored everyone; she left a bright smile on everyone’s heart; she would remind you of who you truly were and how important and loved you were; she warmed your soul.”

Lloyd had struggled financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, her family said. Still, she'd "seemed like she was fine" despite being under stress prior to her disappearance, according to her mother.

“Being [on] lockdown for almost three months, not being able to work, and she was trying to home school her son, it was starting to get to her — the pressure and not having any income," Ruth Lloyd said in July.

Anyone with information related to Lloyd’s disappearance or death is urged to contact Detective Michael Gardea or Sergeant Michael Warrick of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department at 909-387-3589.

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