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Merced sheriff's deputies make arrest in case of stolen funeral money

DELHI -- A man accused of stealing a funeral collection jar at a convenience store was arrested by Merced County sheriff's deputies on Saturday.

Joseph Anthony Rodriguez, 51, was arrested at a residence in the 16000 block of August Avenue in Delhi around 2 p.m., after investigators received tips about his whereabouts, according to Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.

Investigators spotted Rodriguez outside the home upon arriving at the scene. He didn't resist and was taken into custody without incident. MacKenzie said Rodriguez was aware sheriff's deputies were looking for him, although he was surprised about the media coverage of the alleged theft.

He told deputies that he would repay the stolen money -- but MacKenzie said the money hasn't been recovered or paid back.

Rodriguez became the primary suspect after the crime was reported last month, at the the M and A Market in the 2900 block of Beachwood Avenue. A surveillance camera captured video footage of two people stealing the jar of money from a counter inside the store.

The jar was placed there on Dec. 6 and the owner of the market said there was about $200 inside of it. The victim returned two weeks later to collect the jar, and it was gone.

A second suspect, described as a white woman, about 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing about 220 pounds, with curly brown hair wearing a white shirt, remains at large. MacKenzie said deputies haven't determined the woman's identity, and they are still determining how she was involved.

Rodriguez is being held on suspicion of burglary at the John Latorraca Correctional Center in lieu of $50,000 bail.

The Merced County Sheriff's Department is asking for anyone who can identify the woman or her whereabouts to call Detective Jason Jacklitsch at (209) 385-7472.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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