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Three arrested for murder
Victims killed in orchard outside Denair
gerardo silva
Gerardo Alvarez Silva

The Merced County Sheriff’s Department has arrested three men for the murder of two men, whose remains were found in a charred car in an orchard outside Denair.

The murders are suspected to be drug-related, according to the sheriff’s department.

The charred four-door sedan was found by farmers around 10 a.m. Monday in an orchard off East Monte Vista Avenue, just east of Bledsoe Road and near the Merced and Stanislaus county lines.

The sheriff’s department believes the two victims in the case are an uncle and nephew who were reported missing Saturday by family members in Atwater. The men were identified as Reyes Garcia Barona, 29, of Atwater and Rodolfo Barona, 32 of Sacramento, though the sheriff’s department is awaiting pathology results for official identification.

“After taking the missing persons report from family members, obtaining specific descriptors of the missing subjects, ascertaining vehicle information, authorities quickly learned that the missing persons were likely those that were found deceased and burned in the vehicle,” said sheriff spokesman Sgt. Delray Shelton.

Investigators found two crime scenes at the orchard. In addition to the remains, investigators found weapons and “a substantial amount of evidence” in the orchard just outside of Denair, Shelton said.

Detectives believe the two men were kidnapped and eventually murdered by Salvador Silva, 23, of Atwater, Gerardo Alvarez Silva, 25, of Winton and Heliodoro Silva Arreola, 37, of Atwater. All three men were apprehended early Thursday morning in Winton.

Detectives and members of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office Regional Special Weapons and Tactics Team served search warrants at three different locations in Merced County. In the 6800 block of California Street in Winton investigators found approximately 150 pounds of marijuana, $4,000 in cash and numerous firearms, Shelton said.

All three suspects are being held in the Merced County Jail without bail, on murder, kidnapping and false imprisonment charges.

Anyone with information regarding the case is encouraged to contact Detective Macias with the Merced County Sheriff’s Office Detectives Division at 385-7442 ext. 4992.   All callers and information will remain anonymous.