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California authorities have discovered “unidentified human remains” in the Yucca Valley desert during the search for Lauren Cho, who disappeared in June.
The San Bernardino County Coroner’s Division is working to positively identify the remains, but authorities warned that the process "could take several weeks," according to a statement from the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office.
The cause of death also remains under investigation.
The remains were discovered Saturday as the sheriff’s department was conducting a search and rescue operation in the “rugged terrain of the open desert of Yucca Valley.”
Cho’s sister told CNN the family is trying to remain optimistic despite the discovery.
“The family is just holding our collective breaths,” she said. “We so badly desire answers, but already feel the heartbreak of what the answer could be.”
Cho disappeared on June 28. The New Jersey native had been staying with friends in California when she “walked away from the residence,” the Morongo Basin Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Her ex-boyfriend, who had also been staying at the same residence, reported her missing about three hours after she disappeared and told authorities “she was suffering from mental distress” at the time, the news outlet reports.
The man, identified as Cody Orell by the Hi-Desert Star, told the newspaper he and Cho had traveled from New Jersey to California together on a tour bus.
The day she disappeared, she had gotten upset and walked into the hills between Yucca Valley and Morongo Valley, he said.
He told the paper he had tried to find Cho—and had enlisted the help of their friends—before they ultimately called police several hours after she disappeared.
“I searched all in the hills and no tracks, anywhere,” he said.
He believed she may have gotten into a vehicle with someone.
“On Sunday she was going out to meet someone and wasn’t saying who. I didn’t pry into it then,” he said, adding that now he wished he had.
In the months since the 30-year-old vanished, law enforcement authorities, volunteers and Cho’s friends have launched searches to try to find her.
"We have gone thousands of miles and tirelessly went to gas stations and pasted up flyers in the low desert, the high desert," friend Jeff Frost told the news outlet. "We went out to San Diego because she said in the week before she disappeared that she just wanted to go to the beach."
The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office has said they don’t plan to release any additional information until positive identification of the remains can be made.
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