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Human remains found in search for Lauren Cho

Southern California authorities searching for missing New Jersey woman Lauren Cho said Sunday they had found human remains near her last known whereabouts in the high desert.

No connection has been made to Cho, 30, known to friends and family as Lauren “El” Cho. Identification of the remains by the San Bernardino County coroner could take weeks, sheriff’s officials said.

“The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department conducted an additional search and rescue operation in the ongoing search for Lauren Cho,” it said in a statement. “During the search, unidentified human remains were located in the rugged terrain of the open desert of Yucca Valley.”

The location, which roughly matches the area where Cho was last seen, includes a property that had been searched in July.

Cho was last seen on June 28 shortly after 5 p.m. when she may have walked away from a short-term rental she was using during travels with friends and an ex-boyfriend, sheriff’s officials said.

About a week later, relatives of Cho activated a Facebook page called “Missing Person: Lauren ‘El’ Cho” to raise awareness about her disappearance. The case of Cho, who is Korean American, and those of other women of color appeared to get a boost in attention amid criticism of the news media’s intense focus on the late-summer disappearance and death of Gabby Petito, who was white.

Petito’s remains were found near Grand Teton National Park, and those discovered in the search for Cho were found near Joshua Tree National Park.

“I want to use the attention now and just power through,” one of Cho’s friends tweeted Sept. 20 after Petito’s case became a dominant national story.

About a month after Cho’s disappearance, authorities conducted an aerial search of the area near her short-term rental, and a few days after that, deputies on the ground searched the property where Cho had been staying.

Sept. 23, 202102:04

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department put its specialized investigations division on the case Sept. 21.

Family members behind the Facebook page described Cho’s personality and spirit:

“El is many things … a talented musician, an incredible baker, a hilarious and loyal friend, a strangely intuitive gift giver, and probably the coolest sister one could hope for. But this is where El really shines: as an aunt. The love she has for her nibling is unmatched. Even among family, the consensus is that her nibling is the person El loves most in this world.”

Austin Mullen contributed.

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