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Messages from Dead Family's Phone Solve Mystery for Good

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As despair closed in around them, a California couple hiking near the Merced River made desperate attempts to receive help that never arrived, according to information revealed Friday.

On Aug. 15, 2021, Jonathan Gerrish, 45, Ellen Chung, 30, and their 1-year-old daughter, Aurelia, went hiking in Mariposa County in northern California’s Sierra National Forest. The family dog, Oski, came with them.

They were all found dead two days later, according to SFGate.

Now, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office is releasing the electronic messages that were never sent from Gerrish’s cell phone because the area in which they were slowly dying had no cell service.

“(Name redacted) can you help us,” said a text timed at 11:56 a.m. “On savage lundy trail heading back to Hites cove trail. No water or ver (over) heating with baby.”

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At that time, the temperature on the Savage Lundy Trail was well over 100 degrees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

They tried calling for help five times beginning at 12:09 p.m. and ending with four calls in less than a minute between 12:35 and 12:36 p.m., according to a Facebook post by the Sheriff’s Office.

Should these adults have known better?

The post said the family did not try calling 911.

In October, officials said that the family died of “hyperthermia, and probable dehydration due to, environmental exposure,” the Facebook post noted, adding that the electronic trail from the texts, calls and photos on the phone support that conclusion.

“The cell phone data results were the last thing both the family and detectives were waiting on,” Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said in the post. “The extracted information confirms our initial findings. I am very proud of my team and our partner agencies for all the work they put in. Their dedication has allowed us to close this case and answer lingering questions the family had, bringing them a little peace.”

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When the family was found dead on Aug. 17, they were found with an empty 85-ounce water container, which the Chronicle said was about a quarter of the amount they would have needed to survive that day’s conditions.

The FBI was able to use the phone to reconstruct the family’s movements, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The hike began at 8 a.m. in 75-degree weather, but the day’s high would climb to 109. They had gone about four miles when they hit the Savage Lundy Trail, which they took to return to their vehicle.

The bodies of the family, including the dog, were found 1.6 miles from their vehicle.

Gerrish was a software engineer employed by Snapchat; Chung was taking graduate classes to become a family and marriage therapist, SFGate reported.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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