Family of three and their dog found dead in remote Northern California hiking area

A Northern California family of three that had been reported missing was found dead Tuesday along with the family’s dog on a hiking trail in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest, authorities said.

Search teams located the family’s vehicle near a gate to the Sierra National Forest and then found the bodies of John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter, Muji, and their dog near an area known as Devil’s Gulch in the Southfork of the Merced River, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office said. A family friend had reported them missing Monday evening.

There was no clear cause of death, prompting authorities to treat the area as a hazmat scene, said Kristie Mitchell, a spokeswoman with the Sheriff’s Office. “It could be a carbon monoxide situation. That’s one of the reasons why we’re treating it as a hazmat situation,” she said.


The Sheriff’s Office is investigating the deaths along with the California Department of Justice.

The remote area where the bodies were found has no cellphone service, Mitchell said. It is close to the Hite Cove trail, known particularly in springtime to have spectacular wildflower displays.