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Nearly a year ago, a 30-year-old woman left New Jersey for a road trip with her boyfriend; she was reported missing in California in late June and search efforts have continued into the fall.

Lauren “El” Cho worked as an apprentice at Diamond Heart Studios before she left for her trip.

“She is a real person, with real friends & family here in New Jersey,” the tattoo studio posted on Instagram. “Keep advocating for her to be found. Don’t buy into the speculation. Keep searching and sharing.”

Family described Cho as a a talented musician and incredible baker. They said she’s hilarious and a loyal friend. Cho’s the “coolest sister one could hope for” and “really shines” as an aunt.

The disappearance of Gabby Petito, a white 22-year-old woman who went missing in Wyoming during a cross-country trip with her boyfriend, has drawn a frenzy of coverage on traditional and social media, bringing new attention to a phenomenon known as “missing white woman syndrome.”

Cho’s case was highlighted by some under the #findgabypetito hashtag on Twitter. Many have used the hashtag to draw more attention to cases of missing people of color. Cho’s said in a Facebook statement they understand the frustrations but cautioned that differences between cases “run deeper than what meets the public eye.”

Many families and advocates for missing people of color are glad the attention paid to Petito’s disappearance has helped unearth clues that likely led to the tragic discovery of her body and they mourn with her family. But some also question why the public spotlight so important to finding missing people has left other cases shrouded in uncertainty.

Investigators with San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Specialized Investigations Division are helping the Morongo Basin Station in the effort to find Cho.

Anyone with information regarding the search for Ms. 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