MARIPOSA – Authorities await key toxicological test results following the mysterious death of a family and their dog in a remote Sierra walking area.
Progress in resolving the six-week-old case is limited to excluding death from a gun or other weapon, lightning strike, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, cyanide exposure, illegal drugs, alcohol, or suicide, the Mariposa District sheriff’s office said.
The bodies of John Gerrish, his wife Ellen Chung, their one-year-old daughter Miju, and their dog were found on August 17 on a hiking trail near the Merced River in the Sierra National Forest. A family friend reported her missing.
“We respect and understand the need for information and details on this case. Our current priorities remain to support and inform the Gerrish / Chung family during this tragic time. As we navigate this research with the family, we will later share our findings with the public. “Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said in a press release.
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Poisonous algae not excluded
The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday that officials are working with toxicologists, environmental specialists, the FBI and other experts, but “the cause of death remains undetermined.”
“All other possible causes of death remain,” said the sheriff’s office without going into detail.
While many toxicological reports are complete, the authorities are waiting for “some key results”. However, there is no schedule for this, the department said.
An early theory that has not been ruled out is whether high levels of detected toxic algae played a role.
Investigators have received results from water samples in the area but are pending other test results to see if the levels were high enough to cause the deaths, said Kristie Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.
Authorities have sent the couple’s phones and computers to the FBI, she said.
“We didn’t rule out much other than what we listed,” said Mitchell. “Everything else is still out there as an option.”
(GV Wire contributed to this report.)