Homicide investigation underway in Merced County after man's body found in remote area

A 21-year-old Los Banos man was found shot dead in a remote area of western Merced County, the Sheriff’s Department reported.

Olen Bates was identified as the victim, Deputy Delray Shelton said in a news release.

Detectives are investigating the death as homicide, the sheriff’s spokesman confirmed.

No arrests have been made. No suspect information was available Saturday.

Bates’ body was found just before 5 p.m. Friday in a remote area off Volta Road near Interstate 5, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Investigators believe Bates was killed elsewhere and the suspect or suspects took his body to that area of Merced County, Shelton confirmed.

It was not clear how long Bates had been dead when his body was found or the when he was last seen alive by friends or family.

An anonymous motorist spotted the body near the roadway and notified authorities, officials said.

Detectives have ruled out gang and drug-related motives in the case. Investigators do not believe any missing persons reports were filed regarding Bates, Shelton said.

Shelton said it was too early in the investigation to comment on the number of times Bates was shot and declined to speculate about possible motives. Deputies also declined to say whether any vehicles or weapons were located in the area.

Bates had a prior history with law enforcement and was on parole, officials confirmed. No other details regarding his history with law enforcement were available Saturday.

Investigators are asking anyone with information to contact the Merced County Sheriff's Department at (209) 385-7445, or visit the department's website>. All tips and tipsters will remain anonymous.

Bates’ death marks the third homicide of the year in Merced County. All three victims were shot to death.

No arrests have been made in the two previous cases.

Andy Coronado Jr., 26, was killed Jan. 13 at a home on Golden Bobcat Court in Winton during some type of family dispute that ended in gunfire. A second man was also shot during the argument, but his injuries were not life-threatening. His name has not been released, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Marcus Fisher, 21, was gunned down around midnight New Year’s Day after he attended a party hosted by rival gang members. A confrontation broke out and Fisher was chased down and killed. His body was found in the backyard of a home on Derby Court, the Merced Police Department said.