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Woman burned alive in Ballico orchard

BALLICO — A 27 year-old Merced woman who was allegedly burned alive and left to die on a dusty country road is clinging to life in a burn unit at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

Meanwhile, Merced County Sheriff's Department investigators on Wednesday said they are seeking multiple suspects in the crime, which they are calling a horrific attempted homicide.

Sheriff investigators responded to the intersection of South and Ballico avenues around 7:30 a.m. after a group of farm workers found the woman lying on the front yard of a farm property and called 911, according to Paul Barile, spokesperson for the Merced Sheriff’s Department.

Although Barile said details of the crime are still preliminary, detectives are investigating leads that the woman may have been kidnapped during a home invasion that occurred in Merced or Stanislaus counties, possibly in the Turlock area.

Investigators believe the suspects took the woman early Wednesday morning to a remote location on South Avenue, between Pepper Street and Ballico Avenue and ignited her body. After the suspects left, Barile said the woman then walked nearly a half-mile down South Avenue, where she collapsed.

The woman had second and third degree burns covering her entire body — and was burned so badly that investigators did not know her gender when they first saw her, Barile said.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or