The mysterious deaths of a British-born software engineer and his family are now being treated as homicide by police who say they have "never seen a case like this before".
Jonathan Gerrish, 45, his wife Ellen Chung, 31, and their one-year-old daughter Muji, were found by search teams on Tuesday, August 17 in an area of the Sierra National Forest known as Devil's Gulch.
Police were unable to determine a cause of death, leading police to suspect that the family and their dog could have been poisoned by gas escaping from abandoned gold and silver mines believed to be nearby.
"It could be a carbon monoxide situation," said Kristie Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the Mariposa county sheriff’s office soon after the bodies were found.
"That’s one of the reasons why we’re treating it as a hazmat situation."
However, reports the Mirror, police now say the unexplained deaths are being treated as homicide.
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.
"So right now, we're treating the coroner investigation as a homicide until we can establish the cause."
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"We haven’t ruled anything out yet," Kristie Mitchell told the Guardian.
Sheriff Briese said that the theory that the abandoned mines in the area could be the key to solving the riddle did not seem to be likely.
"We have not found any old mine shafts near the area," he said.
"There are some mine shafts, but we can't confirm if that's the cause yet.”
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Gerrish and his wife were keen hikers, and spent many weekends in the woods. Sidney Radanovich, a friend of the family, told the San Francisco Chronicle: "They were such a loving couple, they loved each other quite a bit."
The Brit-born Gerrish was a software designer working in San Francisco who "fell in love with the Mariposa area" and bought several homes there.
While early reports said he worked for search giant Google it’s now understood that he had recently started working for Snapchat.
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