Gabby Petito Murder Bears Striking Similarities To ANOTHER Case: Lauren Cho, Missing Since June
The Gabby Petito investigation has been called a disaster on multiple fronts. First, there were the police who were called to confront the YouTuber and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie over a domestic violence call only to let the couple go, logging it as a “mental health crisis” on her part. That was less than two weeks before her disappearance.
Then of course there’s the fact Laundrie, despite already being a person of interest in the case, was able to slip away from his home and, as of this writing, has been evading a massive police search for nearly a week.
But another major criticism has been about the media’s interest in the case, specifically in comparison to women of color who have gone missing. MSNBC‘s Joy Reid called it out as “Missing White Woman Syndrome”:
“Well, the answer actually has a name: Missing White Woman Syndrome, the term coined by the late and great Gwen Ifill to describe the media and public fascination with missing white women like Laci Peterson or Natalee Holloway while ignoring cases involving of people of color.”
It’s certainly a fair observation. It doesn’t take much searching to learn the number of indigenous women who have gone missing in the same area as Gabby, and their stories never went viral like this one has.
But in our experience the media is a reflection of public interest — and this particular story has captured it. It’s a perfect storm: the victim was consistently posting on social media and YouTube right up until her disappearance, giving internet sleuths tons of info to track. There’s an evolving narrative, natural villains, seemingly obvious investigative missteps. In other words, plenty to get angry about. Of course it’s not fair to other victims, but people are really invested in this case.
Well, now those searching for another missing young woman are trying to turn a little of that national attention towards a case they believe shares some interesting similarities.
“I’m hoping this #GABBYPETITO groundswell can be maintained for other victims. There’s many more out there. Lauren Cho is missing. Please when you see missing persons retweet and like it. You never know who’s eyes it may get in front of…”
“I’m glad #gabbypetito got such great media coverage but can we please keep this same energy for missing #bipoc? Let’s find #LaurenCho Last seen at 3 p.m. Monday, June 28, in Morongo Valley. Last person to see her was her ex-boyfriend.”
“Lauren cho’s disappearance is somewhat similar to #gabbypetito ‘s. why did they take cody orell’s word like that?? he is clearly the prime suspect.”
So who is Lauren Cho??
The 30-year-old, who is known as El to her friends, also went missing in the wilderness, in this case in Yucca Flats in California. Like Gabby, she had stepped away from her everyday life, quitting her job as a high school music teacher to travel across the country with a boyfriend.
She met Cody Orell while still living in New Jersey and traveled with him in a converted tour bus to California. The two moved into a ghost town-turned-artists’ commune called Bombay Beach, just on the edge of the Salton Sea.
Orell told the Hi-Desert Star:
“Lauren wanted a different life. She wanted to move from the East Coast and taste freedom. She quit her job and moved into the bus with me.”
El reportedly enjoyed cooking for everyone and was turning an old school bus into a food truck. She was known for making a unique basil ice cream. She found success quickly, getting a job this summer as a personal chef for a friend’s Airbnb between Yucca and Morongo Valley, outside Joshua Tree National Park.
At some point, however, she and Orell broke up. And interestingly, he was the last person to see her…
He told police he was in his bus on Sunday, June 28, around 3 P.M. when El got upset and walked off into the desert without her phone, without water, without anything. A couple hours later, at 5:13 P.M., Orell reported her missing.
Speaking to the Hi-Desert Star just a couple days later, he explained:
“There was a 10-minute window there and she evaporated … I searched all in the hills and no tracks, anywhere.”
He wasn’t the only one. Search and rescue teams scoured the area for Cho. Starting where she was last seen, near the Hoopa Road and Ben Mar Trail, teams went by foot, using drones, even by helicopter to look. On July 31, a month after the initial report, a team of dogs was brought in to search the home she was staying in and its surrounding land. No trace has been found.
Orell did give a possible lead, claiming:
“On Sunday, she was going out to meet someone and wasn’t saying who. I didn’t pry into it then, but of course now I wish…”
Hmm. Friends don’t buy the idea she would have just left, however. Apparently she had a pet parakeet named Pork Chop that she loved and would not have abandoned.
People are not wrong when they point out the similarities in the cases. Because we are already curious and suspicious about the whole thing.
But her family and friends took to social media earlier this week to make a distinction between El’s case and Gabby’s, writing on a Facebook page dedicated to the search:
“We realize that on the surface, the public information for both cases share some similarities… We understand the frustration many of you have expressed about how and why certain cases receive national coverage. Ultimately, these two cases are NOT the same and the differences run deeper than what meets the public eye. We are wholly appreciative of the love that continues to be shown to El.”
It may not be the same, but it sounds like it deserves as much attention.
Sadly, it sounds like the authorities have done everything they can with their local search. Maybe the internet can help? Surely if she really did meet someone and take off, if she really is out there somewhere, then someone must know something.
Lauren Cho was last seen wearing a yellow t-shirt and jean shorts. She is described as a 5′ 3″ Asian woman with black hair and brown eyes. She has tattoos below her left collarbone and on her right inner arm.
The San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department asks anyone with information on Lauren Cho to contact Detective Edward Hernandez or Sergeant Justin Giles at (909) 387-3589, citing case number 092101115. Anonymous tips can be submitted at WeTip.com.
We hope the attention any coincidental similarity El’s disappearance has to the Gabby Petito case is enough to help find her. And that it doesn’t end as tragically…
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