A homicide was reported Thursday afternoon after farmworkers found a badly burned body in an orchard west of Snelling, the Merced County Sheriff's Department reported.
Details are extremely sketchy, and no suspects are yet in custody. Detectives said the identity and gender of the victim haven't been determined. The body was burned beyond recognition.
Farmworkers found the body in the 3200 block of Keyes Road. The workers reported seeing smoke rising several yards away around 9:30 a.m., but they weren't immediately suspicious because they thought someone might be burning garbage, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.
After the workers went for a closer look around 3 p.m., however, they noticed it was a human body and notified law enforcement. The sheriff's Major Crimes Unit arrived in the area and processed the scene.
Yellow crime scene tape blocked off the gateway to the rural orchard, as detectives donned blue footwear protectors and searched for evidence.
MacKenzie said it's unknown whether the victim was burned alive. Detectives are awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine cause of death. Preliminary results from that autopsy probably won't be available until next week.
Detectives are asking anyone with information to call (209) 385-7472. Calls are kept confidential, and you can remain anonymous.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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