The Merced County Coroner's Office has confirmed that a body pulled from a vehicle submerged in a reservoir last month is that of a Los Banos college student that went missing in May of 2010.
Deputy Tom McKenzie, coroner spokesman, said the body of Hector Valencia, 24, was pulled out of a red Toyota Four Runner on March 23. The vehicle was taken from a reservoir about two miles west of the Los Banos Creek Detention Dam.
From the position of the vehicle, it appeared to have driven off the road into the water.
Los Banos police are handling the investigation and, McKenzie said, an official cause of death is yet to be determined. Valencia’s sister, Erica, said her mother was notified of Hector's death about three weeks after the body was found.
"My mom was really devastated of course," Erika Valencia said. "It was really hard because they had been telling us he was a missing person. We still had hope that he would come walking through the door at my mom’s house."
Erika Valencia said her family suffered heartbreak three times; once when her brother went missing, again when police discovered a body in the reservoir in March and finally when authorities confirmed that it was Hector. Hector Valencia, who attended Merced College, Los Banos Campus, went missing on May 6, 2010. After the disappearance, police said they didn’t suspect foul play and a search was conducted from the Central Valley to the Bay Area. Valencia's family and friends posted fliers around town asking if anyone had seen their loved one.
The Valencia family will hold a memorial service for Hector on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at the Ag Sports Complex, 700 N. Mercey Springs Road. In his youth, Hector Valencia played baseball at the facility.
The Valencias are also asking the public to help them with funeral costs. Anyone interested in donating can make contributions to an account set up by his family the Los Banos Wells Fargo office.
Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209)
388-6563 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 388-6563 or email@example.com.