Missing in America: Lauren Cho 'walked away' from her California Airbnb
(NewsNation Now) — It has been over 100 days since Lauren Cho was reported missing from an Airbnb located down a dirt road in California’s Yucca Valley.
Despite multiple searches and increased interest in her case, Cho’s disappearance remains a mystery.
Those who know Cho well are desperate to know where she may be.
“None of it makes sense to me. None of it makes sense to any of us,” said Len Gherardi, who went to high school with Cho in New Jersey and later worked with her at a shop, tattooing and piercing.
“All of her friends and family know that she wouldn’t have just walked away from her life, she wouldn’t have just evaporated,” Gherardi said of the 30-year-old also known as “el”. “She wouldn’t have just disappeared like this.”
Cho’s ex-boyfriend reported her missing on June 28th at around 5 p.m., telling authorities they had an argument three hours earlier and then she left the Airbnb where they were staying.
Later, in a phone interview with the Hi-Desert Star, the ex-boyfriend said “there was a 10-minute window there and she evaporated.”
According to Mara Rodriguez with the San Bernadino Sheriff’s Department, “she basically walked away with just the clothes she had on. No cell phone, no personal items, no money, no nothing.”
Cho was wearing jean shorts and a yellow t-shirt. She was reportedly last seen at the remote intersection of Hoopa Road & Benmar Trail in Yucca Valley, where the terrain and temperatures are unforgiving.
On the day she went missing, it would have been about 110 degrees.
“It’s very hot out in the summer months and even in the evening,” Rodriguez said. “So being out there with no water, nothing to make contact with anybody, that’s going to be an issue.”
In an exclusive interview with NewsNation, the housekeeper at the Airbnb compound expressed doubt that there was any foul play on the property.
“People show up from different countries. People show up, whoever they are, they just get along,” Traci Cloud, who has worked as a housekeeper at the compound for nearly five years, said. “Nothing violent? No, never. never, never.”
Cloud believes she saw Cho the morning she went missing before leaving for work.
“Evidently they had started drinking in the daytime, early in the day or whatever, and she had drank too much,” Cloud said. “When she wanted to leave [her then-boyfriend] wouldn’t let her take the vehicle and evidently, that’s when she got upset.”
Cho and her ex-boyfriend were a couple when they traveled across the country earlier this year, targeting the area around Joshua Tree National Park, eager for a fresh start.
Cho had expressed dreams of operating a food truck.
Her early years were largely focused on singing and performing.
While attending Westminster Choir College in New Jersey, she became close friends with Kaitlyn Borden.
“One of our favorite things to do is find little gifts for people,” Borden said. “Silly small things that will make them smile.”
Up until late June, the two friends stayed in touch, sharing memes every day and talking every week.
Borden had heard all about the Airbnb where Cho was staying in California.
“She had asked me to go visit her out on this Airbnb compound. And I said I’m a little bit scared about going to the desert in the middle of summer. I’m very pale,” Borden laughed.
But the Airbnb compound is known for more than its exposure to the sun.
According to the Airbnb listing, there is an “‘open” and “liberal” environment at this evolving collection of vintage trailers.
The owner describes it as adults only and clothing is optional.
The housekeeper describes the locals as “all musicians or artists, sculptors.”
“They’re all very mellow, Cloud said. “They’re like a different breed of people. They really are.”
Cho was known to be artistic and have eclectic tastes.
“Her purse that she carries around is just like a rubber chicken. It’s like a rubber chicken purse,” her high school friend Gherardi said. “And that’s what she carried every day.”
The sheriff’s office has its special investigations unit focusing on Cho’s case.
There have been multiple air and ground searches over the past three months, including at the Airbnb compound.
For now, there is no evidence of foul play.
Authorities are appealing to people who were in the area around the time of Cho’s disappearance in late June.
“You don’t know what you don’t know, Rodriguez said. “So if you have anything that you think might be helpful, we absolutely want to hear from you.”
“Go ahead and do the right thing,” Gherardi pleaded to anyone who may have information leading to Cho’s whereabouts. “Come forward and maybe talk about what they noticed or saw. And let’s get the real narrative of what happened that day.”
The Cho family is maintaining a public Facebook page, but they are not doing interviews.
When NewsNation reached out to Cho’s ex-boyfriend, he responded immediately, “no comment”.
NewsNation asked viewers to send us cases that we should be featuring on “Missing in America.” Our team is already sifting through hundreds of tips we have received.
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