Mystery behind deaths of Brit family deepens as autopsy fails to reveal cause

The deaths of a British family – including their baby and pet dog – are still shrouded in mystery after their autopsies failed to reveal how they died.

A murder probe was launched yesterday (August 21) by detectives after Jonathan Gerrish, 45, his wife Ellen Chung, 31, and their one-year-old daughter Muji were discovered in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest in California, US.

A number of possible causes of death are still being considered by investigators, including toxic algae that was reported in a nearby river and noxious gases like carbon monoxide from abandoned mines.

The US Forest Service warned the public in July that toxic algae had been found in the Merced River, urging people not to swim in it or let their pets drink from it.

But the family's causes of death still remain unknown – as the Mariposa County Coroner is still awaiting toxicology results which can take at least two or three weeks.

Mariposa County Sheriff's spokeswoman, Kristie Mitchell, said on Thursday: "This is just a tragic, frustrating case for us.

"It will probably be a long, tedious investigation."

A necropsy (an autopsy on an animal) is also being carried out on Oksi, the family's dog.

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Initially, police treated the bizarre case as a "hazmat situation" when Oksi was also found dead – but detectives made the decision to open a murder probe on Saturday.

Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said: "I've been here for 20 years, and I've never seen a death-related case like this.

"There's no obvious indicators of how it occurred.

"You have two healthy adults, you have a healthy child and what appears to be a healthy canine all within a general same area.

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"So right now, we're treating the coroner investigation as a homicide until we can establish the cause."

Spokeswoman Mitchell also said that none of the bodies had physical wounds such as gunshots or signs of trauma, and no suicide note was found.

She added: "It isn't as clear cut as what some cases are."

The family had moved from San Francisco to Mariposa to raise their baby daughter in a "quiet, slow-paced environment".

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Jonathan was originally from Lancashire and had worked for Google and Snapchat.

His wife was from Orange, California, but was of Korean descent.

When the family's nanny arrived at their home to take care of Miju, no-one answered the door and friends became worried.

On Monday, they were reported missing by a relative, and police found the family car close to the Sierra National Forest gate on the same day.

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Their bodies were tragically found two miles from their vehicle in an area with no phone reception.

Family friend Steve Jeffe told The Mirror: "You had to figure it wasn't an overnight hike because it's been hot, and they had the baby with them.

"Jon was supposed to work Monday and never showed up. That raised more concerns."

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Mr Jeffe called the situation "freaky and strange."

"We're all just devastated. They were really beloved by the people. A super generous, sweet and loving couple."

Jeffe continued: "It's just a tragedy. You have people who pass away and die. And that's always sad.

"This one is just so freaky and strange, and it's really, really sad. They had so much going for them."

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