September 24 2021 03:30 pm

‘Never seen anything like this’: Officials give update on family found dead in Sierra National Forest


MARIPOSA, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office said they are still investigating the death of an entire Mariposa family and pet dog found dead in the Sierra National Forest.

According to deputies, crews are still on scene to confirm that there are no other public safety hazards in the area.

John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter Muji and the family dog were located deceased near the Devil’s Gulch area in the Southfork of the Merced River drainage.

Deputies said they were experienced hikers and were new residents of the county. John Gerrish was an engineer from the United Kingdom and met Ellen Chung in San Francisco before they relocated to Mariposa in 2020.

Deputies said there were no signs of trauma on any of the deceased family members.

“I’ve never seen a death like this, they were appeared to be a healthy family and a family canine. Our hearts go out to the family, and we are working hard to provide closure. We’re not going to rest until we figure this out.” Sheriff-Coroner at Mariposa Sheriff’s Office Jeremy Briese said.

Additional resources, including a Department of Justice forensic crime lab, were called in to confirm there are no other dangers in the immediate area.

According to deputies, the trailhead has a sign posted warning for algal blooms or toxic algae in the river. However, they could not confirm if that played a role in the family’s death.

In the past, toxic algae alerts have been posted in that area.

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