San Bernardino County authorities have identified skeletal remains they discovered in the desert outside Twentynine as those of 37-year-old Erika Ashley Lloyd. The remains were found by hikers on January 31, and Lloyd had been missing since June 16, 2020.
It's a story of someone possibly in crisis who met a tragic end in the middle of the pandemic. Erika Lloyd left her Walnut Creek home, leaving behind a young son, on June 14, to take a solo camping trip in Joshua Tree National Park. According to her parents, Ruth and Wayne Lloyd, she had told friends that she needed a break.
"Her business got shutdown because of COVID. She had no income. She was homeschooling her child and it was just getting to her," said Ruth Lloyd in an interview last August with KRON4.
The Lloyds lost contact with their daughter on June 16, as KPIX reports, the same day that her car was found damaged near the intersection of Highway 62 and Shelton Road in Twentynine Palms.
"She sounded like she was driving," Ruth Lloyd told KRON4. "She was speaking very rapidly. It was just hard to make out exactly what she was saying."
After discovering her abandoned car, authorities later found her campsite still intact in Jumbo Rocks Campground in Joshua Tree, about 10 miles from where the car was found.
The car was strangely damaged, with a damaged front end and radiator, the airbag was deployed, and then there was a hole where it looked like the windshield had separately been smashed.
As Diane Bailey, owner of Bailey's Auto Repair & Towing, told local station KESQ last August, the car was "more than just vandalized."
"The radiator is extremely smashed backwards. The whole bottom of the radiator, the AC condenser is all pushed back hit very large object," said David Bailey. Bailey explained of the road it was found on, "She [probably] hit the berm of the road. When they grade the berm of the road a big tall part of the dirt. People typically hit that. If she hit that, she hit straight on perfectly in the middle."
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department did not suspect foul play, and the believe Lloyd drove her own car out of the park before disappearing.
As KRON4 now reports via the sheriff's department, the location of her remains was just four miles north of where the car was found, near the 5200 block of Danby Road in Wonder Valley. It's an area of mostly uninhabited desert just east of Twentynine Palms, and the desert heat in June was likely scorching if Lloyd was on foot. It seems possible she was disoriented, or she just lost cell signal after wrecking the car and went in search of help on foot.
Multiple searches for Lloyd were conducted over several months, but she was not located until three weeks ago.
Colin Lloyd, Erika’s brother, announced the news on Facebook Thursday night, as KPIX reports.
"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," he began.
"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."
He added thanks to the residents of Twentynine Palms and Wonder Valley who aided in search efforts, as well as the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. And he mentioned Doug Billings, a local cave expert who also conducted his own searches.
Billings aided in a search for another missing person, 56-year old James Escalante, who went missing in the same area of desert about a week after Lloyd did, after he came across what authorities believed to be the bicycle that Escalante was last seen riding. As KESQ reported, authorities ended up finding two sets of human remains in the area, one of which, located in August, turned out to be Escalante's.
Colin Lloyd said of his sister Erika, "Remember her, cherish her memory, celebrate moments past, and laugh; she would always make you laugh. 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."
Photo via Facebook