Body found in burned vehicle, north Ballico

vpatton@mercedsunstar.comDecember 3, 2012 

— The charred body of an unknown person was found inside of a burned car Sunday morning, just north of Ballico, the Merced County Sheriff's Department reported.

As of Sunday, law enforcement had released few details about the case, and even the gender and age of the victim remain unknown.

Sheriff's deputies initially called the death "suspicious." Deputies later turned the case over to the California Highway Patrol as a possible traffic accident investigation, according to deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.

The incident was reported after CHP officers responded to a call of a car fire near Sunny Acres Avenue and Pepper Street at 6:10 a.m. Sunday.

When they arrived, they found the body in the passenger seat and no driver.

Sheriff's deputies and Cal Fire/Merced County Fire Department also responded to the scene to investigate the fire, MacKenzie said.

Officer John Patterson, CHP spokesman, said Sunday his department is continuing its investigation into the death, but said no further details were available.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.

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