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December 3, 2012

CHP continuing investigation into body found inside burned car

California Highway Patrol investigators released few new details Monday in the case of a charred body found in the passenger seat of a burning car this weekend near Ballico.

The car, a 1995 Saturn, was found around 6 a.m. Sunday fully engulfed in flames on the south shoulder of Santa Fe Avenue near Sunny Acres Avenue, according to John Patterson, CHP spokesman. No one was in the car's driver's seat.

The case was initially being handled by the Merced County Sheriff's Department. Deputies handed the case over the CHP as a possible traffic accident. However, Patterson said it's still too early to tell what happened, and the cause of the fire remains unknown.

"We can't speculate on anything at this time," Patterson said.

The identity of the person hasn't been released, and the coroner's office is scheduled to conduct an autopsy today.

CHP investigators are asking anyone with information about the body to call (209) 356-2956. Tips are kept confidential and you can remain anonymous.

-- Victor A. Patton

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