'Missing white woman syndrome' reinvigorates search for Lauren Cho

Mini golf pop-up this weekend, the MDLT gears up for its annual plant sale, and a new camping reservation system debuts for JTNP

Hello from California’s high desert. I am back in your inbox after a few weeks off, in which I did a lot of reading and spent a lot of time outside with the dogs. Thankfully the weather is starting to cool off a bit so the dogs can hang out outside before the sun goes down. Monday marked the Harvest Moon (did you see it?) and today is officially the first day of Fall! We made it through another summer.

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old woman from New York who disappeared while on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé Brian Laundrie. On Tuesday, officials confirmed that a body found in a remote area of Bridger–Teton National Forest in Wyoming outside Grand Teton National Park belonged to Petito, and the manner of death was ruled a homicide. Investigators are still searching for Laundrie, who is a person of interest in the case and disappeared from his family’s residence in Florida on Sept. 11.

The case has sparked a national media frenzy and renewed discussions about the subtle signs of domestic abuse that are oftentimes missed by family, friends, and acquaintances of victims.

After nearly a week of wall-to-wall media coverage of small developments in the case, however, many people pointed out that the same attention is almost never paid to cases involving women of color.

That is how, after months of silence, Lauren Cho’s disappearance finally caught mainstream attention, with articles just this week in The Sun, Rolling Stone, and several local affiliate TV stations. People in media and on the internet have called for renewed efforts to find Cho and bring awareness to her case, which has largely stalled since the summer.

As a reminder, Cho, who goes by El, vanished on June 28 in Yucca Valley. She left on foot from the rental home where she was reportedly living after moving from New Jersey in December 2020 and didn’t come back. Police searched the property with a warrant and searched the surrounding area by plane, according to a July 31st statement. Updates since July have been minimal, at best.

On Sept. 18, the administrators of the Facebook page tracking Cho’s case posted the following message:

We would like to take a moment to acknowledge the messages and questions that have come our way this past week regarding the Gabby Petito case in comparison to what is happening with El.

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. We empathize deeply with Gabby's family and hope that both our cases bring forth positive resolution.

Somebody knows something. About El, about Gabby...

While the outcome in the Petito case is still to be determined, the pace at which investigators were able to provide closure to Petito’s family was largely driven by the national attention following the case. If we can muster similar energy and attention for women of color, for Cho and the hundreds of others that go missing every year in the US, we may be able to force investigators to give these cases the similar urgency we just witnessed.

Anyone with information regarding the search for Cho is urged to contact Detective Edward Hernandez or Sergeant Justin Giles, Specialized Investigations Division, at (909) 387-3589. You may remain anonymous by contacting the We-Tip hotline at 800-78-CRIME (27463) or www.wetip.com.

And now, onto this week’s news:

Mojaveland Mini Golf is hosting a free pop-up event for families this Saturday and Sunday in Twentynine Palms

  • Mojaveland Mini Golf is hosting a free, family-friendly pop-up event this Saturday and Sunday.

  • It is looking for families with children of all ages to come and test out the different miniature golf holes.

  • Guests are encouraged to bring their own putters and golf balls, and Mojaveland is currently accepting donations of lightly used items.

  • The pop-up runs from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. both days, and also includes an art exhibition of Tookie Smith’s homestead.

  • Mojaveland Mini Golf is located at 5157 Adobe Road in Twentynine Palms.

Mark your calendars! The Mojave Desert Land Trust annual plant sale is set for October 11 through 13.

  • Mojave Desert Land Trust’s annual native plants sale is set to begin at 9 a.m. on October 11, the organization announced last week.

  • This year, the sale will be entirely online with a no-contact pickup option starting October 21 through 23.

  • Over 45 native, hard-to-find species will be available, including smoke tree, jojoba, desert almond, and sugarbush. All plants are grown in MDLT’s nursery.

  • Prices start at $5 for small or common plants and go up to $120 for mature trees. A full inventory is posted here.

  • For more information, check out the MDLT’s FAQ page about this year’s sale. Good luck, I’ve heard these annual sales sell out quickly!

New this season: All camping reservations in Joshua Tree National Park will have to go through Recreation.gov

  • All camping reservations for Joshua Tree National Park will have to go through Recreation.gov, the federal website for national forests, parks, and reserves.

  • This includes same-day camping reservations, which previously did not require an online reservation.

  • First-come, first-served campgrounds also have a new payment method. A ranger will be stationed at those campgrounds to collect campsite fees with a portable register. Campers can pay with a debit or credit card.

  • There will no longer be self-registering, pre-payment systems, also known as “iron rangers,” for first-come, first-served campsites.

  • Reservations can still be made up to six months in advance on Recreation.gov. Park staff recommend that campers reserve a campsite before entering the park, as cell service is limited or non-existent at some campgrounds.

Pupdate of the week: It’s hard to believe Alice is already nine months old tomorrow. She met her littermate Poppy last week in Big Bear, and the reunion was incredibly adorable. Oliver is just happy to get after-dinner walks again.

Trail tip of the week: Southern California’s National Forests are still closed through next week even though the forests in Northern California reopened Sept. 15. If you, like me, are craving outdoor time but feel stuck, I recommend checking out the National Preserves and Wilderness Areas nearby for a day of compliant hiking. But please note, trails and parking areas are not always well marked in these areas because they don’t get a ton of visitors. Get yourself a real paper map and GPS device instead of relying on Google Maps!

Book of the week: If you are a fan of mysteries in the same vein as Nancy Drew, I highly recommend Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It’s a spooky thriller that follows a Mexico City socialite sent to the country to care for her cousin, who has reported strange things about her husband’s family and the house they are living in. It’s a slow burn, but I raced through the last several chapters at lightning speed.

Show of the week: I binge-watched the new LuLaRich documentary series on Amazon in a single day, it was that good. The four-part series follows the founders of LuLaRoe, an online women’s clothing retailer known for extremely vibrant leggings. The series outlines its argument — that LuLaRoe is a multilevel marketing scheme taking advantage of white stay-at-home moms — exceptionally well, and even includes sit-down interviews with the husband-and-wife founding team that had me shrieking at some of their revelations. I immediately recommended this to at least three people after watching the first five minutes.

Small business of the week

Mon Petit Mojave is an art and music nonprofit based in the Morongo Basin. The organization, together with the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council, recently received a $17,000 grant from the California Arts Council to continue their mission to bring more cultural experiences to the community and keep the arts accessible to all, via their popular drive-in concerts.

If you have yet to attend one of their shows on the Mesa, I highly recommend it. They are also sponsoring a live show tonight at the Taste of Palm Springs from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. Entry to the show is included with the festival’s $25 admission wristband.

Tonight’s concert is located at 1100 E Murray Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.

That’s it for this week! We are back to our regularly scheduled programming for a while, so I hope you have a great weekend and are able to get ouside!

- Megan