Analysis Shows Remains Found On January 29 In Wonder Valley Are Those Of Erika Lloyd

Skeletal remains found near Amboy Road and Danby Road in Wonder Valley on Sunday, January 31 have been identified as those of Erika Lloyd, who had been missing since mid-June.
The confirmation of Lloyd’s death brings painful closure to eight months of mystery and dismay relating to her disappearance, which came after a frenetic six days during which the single mother was searching for solace in the midst of what was for her the overwhelming tension brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Her pursuit of relief ultimately ended in her death in the unforgiving landscape of San Bernardino County’s remote Mojave Desert Outback.
Lloyd, who would now be 38, was 37 at the time of her disappearance.
The maddeningly baffling details of what now appear to have been Lloyd’s last days on earth, in which she drove 503 miles from her Bay Area home to Joshua Tree National Park then back to her home and then back to the national park, covering those 1,599 miles in the course of four days, are no more understandable than they have been from the outset of her vanishing.
The remains were identified as those of Lloyd through dental records. The results of an autopsy that was to be performed have not been released, and there was no indication if that autopsy or any other forensic examination has been completed. No cause of death has been disclosed.
Though Lloyd’s death and the circumstances leading up to it remain under investigation, information that has been disclosed to this point supports a conclusion of misadventure rather than foul play.
Statements made by her friends and family to a variety of media outlets suggest that the COVID-19 crisis had put a crimp in Lloyd’s work as a beautician, negatively impacting her cash flow. There have been suggestions that she was seeking to make a getaway to the national park as a break from the challenges in her life.
Of note is that before leaving, she deleted the contents of her Facebook page, though she remained active on Instagram until June 15.
According to her sister-in-law, Lloyd was “under a lot of stress and wanted to get away and unplug.”
An unconfirmed report is that one of Erika’s friends, whose precise identity or gender is not available through any source found by the Sentinel, moved to Twentynine Palms in April 2020. There has been speculation that Lloyd had perhaps made the trip to see that person.
On June 11, she left her 12-year-old son in the care of a friend in Walnut Creek before departing.
There is evidence suggesting she covered the entire 533 miles between Walnut Creek and Joshua Tree National Park on Thursday, June 11, and was camping at the Jumbo Rocks campground the nights of June 11 and Friday, June 12.
Early on Saturday, June 13, she set out on a return trip to Walnut Creek, arriving later that day, and spent the night there with her son and her roommate. The following day, Sunday, June 14, she departed Walnut Creek, again without her son, to return to the Jumbo Rocks campground, where, she represented to her friends, two people identified simply as “James” and “Christian” were looking after her campsite and, presumably, her camping gear. There is credible evidence to suggest that Lloyd arrived at Jumbo Rocks Campground in the late afternoon of June 14. In her journal that was recovered, Lloyd noted that James and Christian were not at the campground when she arrived. According to Lloyd’s mother, she spoke with her daughter for the last time on June 14 or June 15. She said Erika was “talking really fast” and it sounded like she was driving. There was no known telephonic contact between Lloyd and anyone after that.
Park rangers on Monday, June 15 came across Lloyd’s vandalized 2006 Black Honda Accord in the parking area for the Indian Cove campground, some 21.9 miles from Jumbo Rocks but still within the confines of 1,234 square-mile Joshua Tree National Park. There was no camping equipment in the car or in its immediate vicinity when the rangers observed the vehicle. The windshield on the passenger’s side in the front had been broken, and the dashboard damaged. It is believed, based on incomplete information available to the Sentinel, there was at that point damage to the back window, as well. The rangers noted the vehicle’s presence in a report, and left a note on the car. That evening, the car had been removed.
The next day, Tuesday June 16, a video captured the car leaving the north entrance into/exit from Joshua Tree National Park at 1:20 p.m, and the car was later videoed passing a school in Twentynine Palms at 2:50 p.m.
Around 4 p.m. on June 16, after being summoned by a report from a Wonder Valley resident, the California Highway Patrolman spotted Lloyd’s Accord parked on Shelton Road, east of Twentynine Palms, north of the intersection with Highway 62, facing south toward the highway, some 23 miles from Jumbo Rocks campground. The car was blocking the roadway such that it inhibited passage on Shelton Road, which is unpaved. The CHP summoned Twentynine Palms-based Bailey’s Auto Repair & Towing to tow the car. David Bailey, the proprietor of the tow company, subsequently told News Channel 3, based in the Coachella Valley, that the Accord’s rear window was broken, that the front windshield was smashed on the passenger side, that the airbag had deployed and the radio was damaged.
It is believed that in towing the Accord, vibration from traveling the rough roads into Twentynine Palms caused the back window to completely fragment.
In addition, Bailey said, there was damage to the outside front of the vehicle in that the bottom of the radiator and the air conditioning condenser were pushed backwards as if the car had hit a very large object head-on. Bailey speculated that the car had run into a berm beside the road near the intersection of Highway 62 and Shelton Road.
Beginning on June 16, Lloyd’s friends calling her cell phone encountered no answer. They continued to try to reach her.
On Wednesday, June 17, her family reported her missing, giving indication she might be in the area of Joshua Tree National Park. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department dispatched a helicopter to scour the area. That effort was not fruitful.
Lloyd’s camping gear was located at a camping site in Jumbo Rocks Campground. An expensive Yeti cooler she was not known to have owned was found among her possessions at the campsite.
The Morongo Basin Sheriff’s Station was put on a special alert to be on the lookout for any sightings of her throughout the entirety of the more than 3,000 square mile desert area that includes Joshua Tree, Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, Yucca Valley and outlying areas. Park Rangers began searching areas within the park. Sheriff’s deputies, including ones with canines, searched areas at the entrance of the park and its periphery, as well as along Highway 62.
The Joshua Tree Search and Rescue Team engaged in an effort to find her or spot any signs that she was in the area.
On June 19, Lloyd’s parents caught a flight from Maryland to California in an effort to help with and intensify the search for their daughter. They posted photos of her and posters alerting the public to her disappearance in the area within the national park as well as in and around Twentynine Palms and Wonder Valley.
Friends and family persisted in trying to reach her by calling her cell phone. On June 20, it was answered by a man who said he had found the phone on June 18 “on Cottonwood,” that is on Cottonwood Drive in Twentynine Palms.
On July 22, 2020, a dirt bike rider found human remains in the desert at a location not precisely delineated.
On August 8, 2020, a man who was going shooting in the desert found a badly decomposed body on Shelton Road in Wonder Valley.
Meanwhile, the Lloyd family, still intent on finding Erika, intensified its efforts. Her parents leased space on billboards in the Morongo Valley to feature oversized and highly visible photos of their daughter and make notice of her being missing.
Doug Billings, a mining and cave expert who is familiar with the area and possesses global positioning, mapping and data-cataloging equipment that allows him and the team he is working with to carry out a methodical survey of the vast desert landscape, joined as a volunteer in the search effort.
While conducting his search in the areas he believed Lloyd was likely to have become lost in or perished, Billings’ search team came upon a red bike later determined to be the one ridden by James Escalante, who disappeared on June 25, 2020 from an area very near to where Lloyd’s damaged and/or vandalized car was found abandoned near the intersection of Highway 62 and Shelton Road.
Six bodies were found in the area in or around Wonder Valley in the 13 months and eight days between December 23, 2019 and January 31, 2021
Human remains were found in Joshua Tree National Park on December 23, 2019. On January 14, 2020 that body was identified as that of Paul Miller.
On January 16, 2020, human remains were found in Joshua Tree National Park. On February 12, 2020, those were identified as Tawny Camarillo, who was last seen on May 13, 2019, in the area of Yucca Valley. Camarillo was reported missing on May 14, 2019.
On July 22, 2020, a dirt bike rider found human remains in the desert at a precise location not identified by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Those remains have not been identified.
On August 8, 2020, proximate to Shelton Road and Highway 62, a body later determined to be that of Escalante was found.
On an undisclosed date in roughly the same timeframe, a body was found approximately a quarter of a mile south of Amboy Road and Wilson Road.
On Sunday January 31, Lloyd’s body was discovered by hikers in a field near Amboy Road and Danby Road.
According to Billings, Lloyd’s skeletal remains were found roughly 2.2 miles northwest of where her car was abandoned.
Billings said the circumstances relating to Lloyd’s disappearance and where she was found is a relatively strong indication that Lloyd perished after an accident, possibly a collision with a sand berm to the side of Highway 62, as was stated by David Bailey. He said Lloyd may have sustained some type of head injury, compounded with possible mental and emotional distress. Emphasizing that he could not make any pronouncement with total certainty, Billings said he believed that Lloyd, who was not familiar with the desert area and was already likely disoriented, probably ran into a barrier on the side of the road at a high enough rate of speed to disable the vehicle and injure herself.
“The airbag deployed, so I don’t see how she couldn’t have banged her head pretty hard,” Billings said. “Unfamiliar with area and first time exiting the Utah Trail north exit, she easily could have overshot Highway 62, thinking the Marine Corps base in the distance was the actual town. She could have mistaken some of the structures on the Marine Corps base as being buildings in the City of Twentynine Palms before she crashed, which would put her out on Amboy Road,” he said, and she likely then went on foot in that direction rather than taking Highway 62. “She probably began walking, and went just about as far as that, two to two-and-a-half miles,” Billings said. “She was already disoriented. It was hot. Not as hot as it gets in July or August, but hot enough. She easily could have suffered heat stroke.”
The only information presently available that might contradict a conclusion of misadventure, Billings said, is that Lloyd’s body was discovered a little less than a week after heavy rains in the desert. If she had been buried in a shallow grave, he said, the heavy flow of water that occurred might have carried the earth on top of her away, leaving her body exposed, whereupon she was found on January 31.
“The first heavy rains since she went missing occurred the week before her remains were found, he said.
Billings said investigators might be able to piece together whether or not it was the case that Lloyd had been killed and buried by means of a forensic examination to determine the degree to which her body or her clothes had been bleached or had not been bleached by the sun. If one side of her corpse was not significantly more bleached than the other, Billings said, that would tend to disprove his theory that no foul play was involved, he said. “But understand,” he said, “I am by no means an expert on forensics, with my specialty being the local geography.”
Colin Lloyd, Erika’s brother, in a posting to the Bring Erika Home Facebook page that has since been taken down, wrote, “There is no easy way for me to tell you all this and there’s no easy way for any of us to receive it. My wish is that we can all lean in a little closer, hold each other up, and remind each other more often that we’re here for one another with open arms and endless love; it’s what she would have wanted; it’s the spirit of who she was.”
Colin Lloyd’s posting continued, “We would like to thank the men and women of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, to include their families, all the men and women who performed searches in the desert, Doug Billings and his friends who assisted in the search, the residents of 29 Palms and Wonder Valley. You have all been nothing short of a miracle for us.”
He said his sister’s smile will live on in the memories of everyone who knew her.
“Remember her, cherish her memory, celebrate moments past, and laugh; she would always make you laugh,” Colin Lloyd posted. “Erika adored everyone; she left a bright smile on everyone’s heart; she would remind you of who you truly were and how important and loved you were; she warmed your soul.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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