For the first time, the supervising investigator in the Merced County District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigations is a woman.
Anna Hazel, who has worked for the district attorney’s office since 2003, recently was promoted to the position.
“Anna is, hands down, the most talented white-collar crime investigator in Merced County,” District Attorney Larry Morse II said in a statement. “She has an incredible gift for unraveling complicated facts and putting together solid, unshakeable cases. Her experience and exceptional organizational skills will be put to important use as supervisor of our investigations bureau.”
Hazel, 41, replaces Wayne Hutton, who recently retired after serving as supervising investigator for 11 years.
“I consider it a privilege, and I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to serve in a greater capacity within the district attorney’s office,” Hazel said in a statement to the Sun-Star.
“I have made my career here, and I am so proud of the work that we do for the citizens of Merced County. This office is comprised of the most talented and hard-working law enforcement professionals that you will ever meet, and it is truly my pleasure to work alongside them each day.”
The investigations bureau includes eight full-time, sworn peace officer investigators, four part-time sworn peace officer investigators and four investigative assistants. The bureau supports cases filed by the district attorney’s office and conducts complex and long-term criminal investigations.
“The Bureau of Investigations is growing, and we are expanding investigative resources into new areas and it is an exciting time to be a part,” Hazel said.
Hazel led the investigation into the ongoing Los Banos bribery case involving Tommy Jones, former mayor and trustee on the Los Banos Unified governing board, and Greg Opinski, a Merced contractor and trustee on the Merced Union High governing board.
She served as the lead investigator on the Firm Build case that led to federal prison sentences for three men who used high school students to remove asbestos from buildings at the former Castle Air Force Base. Hazel also was a trial team member in the capital murder case led by Morse of Tahua “Tao” River, who was convicted and sentenced to death in the killing of Stephan Gray, a Merced police officer.
Pat Lunney, chief investigator with the district attorney’s office, said Hazel “has continually demonstrated the highest level of professionalism throughout her career, which bodes well for future operations of the bureau of investigations as well as the entire office.”
Hazel attended Atwater schools before earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Fresno State in 1997. She worked as an intern at the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office for five years. She earned a master’s degree in criminology from Fresno State in 2000 and completed the Fresno Police Academy in 2001. She began her stint in Merced County as a white collar crime investigator.
Anna is married and has two sons.