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Body found in Merced River
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The Merced County Sheriff’s Department has launched a homicide investigation after a man’s body was found in the Merced River with a gunshot wound.

The body was found around 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the river near Hills Ferry Road in Newman and not far from the George J. Hatfield Park in Hilmar.

A fisherman spotted the body and contacted authorities.

“Initially it looked as if he had been hit by a car and knocked into the river, but after the body was removed it was seen he had a gunshot wound to the chest,” said Merced County spokesman Deputy Ed Katen.

The man’s identity has not yet been determined. Katen said he appeared to be in his early to mid 30s and was white.

Investigators are hoping fingerprints and the man’s tattoos will lead to his identification.

“He had an extensive number of tattoos on his body,” Katen said.

Some of the tattoos lead investigators to believe the man was from the Modesto area and may have spent some time in prison, Katen said.

Initial indications are that the man was shot somewhere else and dumped in the river, Katen said.

“He was found in an area that was not visible from the road,” Katen said.

It’s unknown how long the body had been in the river. Katen said it might have been as late as Wednesday night or as early as Thursday morning.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact the Merced County Sheriff’s Department at 385-7445.