Homicide reported near Gustine

GUSTINE -- The body of a man was found in an almond orchard Wednesday afternoon near Gustine -- and Merced County sheriff's deputies are calling the case a homicide.

Details about the case remain sketchy, and nobody is in custody.

Gustine police received a call and responded to the scene off Highway 33 and Borba Road after 1 p.m.

After finding the body, detectives with the sheriff's department's Major Crimes Unit were notified.

Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman, said there were obvious signs of foul play. The victim's name and age haven't been determined.

Farmworker Osvaldo Vega said he and co-workers had seen the body while going to lunch, but thought the man was asleep.

After returning from lunch, Vega said the group went to check on him and saw he was dead.

Vega said the man's hands were tied in front of him, and blood was coming from his nose.

MacKenzie said it's unknown how the victim was killed. Detectives processed the crime scene and searched the area throughout the afternoon.

Detectives are asking anyone with information about the case to call (209) 385-7472. Calls are kept confidential, and you can remain anonymous.

The death is the 22nd homicide reported in Merced County this year.

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