Bones of California mom who vanished during ‘pandemic road trip’ found in desert

California mom’s remains found in desert after vanishing during 2020 ‘pandemic road trip’

WONDER VALLEY, Calif. — Human remains found last month in California’s Wonder Valley have been identified as a missing mom who vanished during a “pandemic road trip” last summer.

Erika Ashley Lloyd, 37, of Walnut Creek, was reported missing June 17 by her family, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

“(Lloyd) was believed to be traveling to the Joshua Tree National Park and was last seen in person on Sunday, June 14, in the city of Walnut Creek,” San Bernardino County authorities said in a news release. “Deputies, search and rescue volunteers, sheriff’s aviation and park rangers from the Joshua Tree National Park conducted numerous search operations in the weeks and months following her disappearance.”

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Lloyd’s car was found abandoned two days later near California Route 62, east of the 29 Palms area, California Highway Patrol officials said. Route 62 runs east to west just north of Joshua Tree, where the missing woman had gone camping.

That same day was the last time Lloyd’s loved ones had contact with her.

In July, about a month after Lloyd vanished, her family told News Channel 3 in Palm Springs that her car appeared to have been in an accident. Her mother, Ruth Lloyd, wrote on Facebook in August that a park ranger had spotted Lloyd’s car, which had apparently been vandalized, and left his card on it.

“She drove her car out of the park, and it is believed she had an accident of some sort which damaged the car, and (she) drove it till it could not be driven any further,” Ruth Lloyd wrote. “She was hit in the face by the airbag.”

Photos of the car shared on social media show damage to the front end of the car, as well as a shattered windshield. A large hole was left in the glass on the passenger side of the car.

The owner of the wrecker service that towed the car told the news station that the airbag was deployed and the radio was shattered by the impact.

“It’s more than just vandalized,” Diane Bailey said. “The radiator is extremely smashed backwards. The whole bottom of the radiator, the AC condenser is all pushed back.

“(She) hit a very large object.”

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said at the time that they did not suspect foul play regarding the vehicle.

Pictured in a May 2019 Street View image is the stretch of California roadway where Erika Lloyd's car was found abandoned June 17, 2021. The skeletal remains of the missing 37-year-old Walnut Creek woman were found Jan. 31, 2021, in the desert outside of Joshua Tree National Park.
Pictured in a May 2019 Street View image is the stretch of California roadway where Erika Lloyd's car was found abandoned June 17, 2021. The skeletal remains of the missing 37-year-old Walnut Creek woman were found Jan. 31, 2021, in the desert outside of Joshua Tree National Park. (Google)

Erika Lloyd’s family members were also working under the assumption that she may have been injured and wandered away.

“We don’t know if she had some memory loss when she got hit by the airbag,” Ruth Lloyd told the news station. “Maybe she doesn’t know who she is. We don’t know. We aren’t sure about her mental stage.”

The missing woman’s remains were ultimately found about eight miles, along the roadways, from where her car was found. If she walked northwest across the desert instead of following the roads, the distance to where she was found is about six miles.

Erika Lloyd's skeletal remains were found Jan. 31, 2021, in a desert field about 2,000 feet down this road near California's Joshua Tree National Park. The 37-year-old Walnut Creek woman was reported missing on a camping trip to the park in June 2020.
Erika Lloyd's skeletal remains were found Jan. 31, 2021, in a desert field about 2,000 feet down this road near California's Joshua Tree National Park. The 37-year-old Walnut Creek woman was reported missing on a camping trip to the park in June 2020. (Google)

Lloyd said her daughter, who leaves behind a 12-year-old son, seemed fine before she left on her trip.

“Being in lockdown for almost three months, not being able to work, and she was trying to homeschool her son. It was starting to get to her. The pressure, and not having any income,” Ruth Lloyd said.

Deputies from the Morongo Basin sheriff’s office substation received a call the morning of Jan. 31 about possible human remains found in a desert field in Wonder Valley. They and detectives went to the scene and recovered a partial skeleton.

Dental records showed that the remains belonged to Erika Lloyd, according to authorities.

Her brother, Colin Lloyd, addressed the discovery Thursday on a Facebook page dedicated to bringing his sister home.

“Close to eight months have passed since Erika disappeared, and we have been blessed by countless efforts of selflessness and compassion on (the) part of the community and our family,” he wrote.

Colin Lloyd thanked the deputies, investigators and volunteers who searched for Erika Lloyd, as well as their families. He asked for privacy for the Lloyd family as they mourn their loss.

The skeletal remains of Erika Lloyd, 37, of Walnut Creek, Calif., were found Jan. 31, 2021, in the desert outside of Joshua Tree National Park, where she camped in June 2020 before vanishing. Her family reported her missing June 17.
The skeletal remains of Erika Lloyd, 37, of Walnut Creek, Calif., were found Jan. 31, 2021, in the desert outside of Joshua Tree National Park, where she camped in June 2020 before vanishing. Her family reported her missing June 17. (California Highway Patrol)

“Right now is the time for grieving, and I encourage everyone to pause and reflect on the beautiful soul we’ve lost — our Erika,” Colin Lloyd wrote. “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. Let us hold her spirit dearly and allow it to work through us to serve others, what she would want us to do.”