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Workers find burning body
Planada woman, baby missing
Ana Lila Diaz DeCeja, 26, and her 2-month-old son Anthony Ceja-Diaz have not been seen since Thursday. - photo by Photo Contributed

The Merced County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a homicide where a badly burned body was found in a Snelling orchard.

“The body was so badly burned that age, ethnicity, and gender could not be determined,” said sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Tom MacKenzie.

A positive identification has not been made on the body and an autopsy is still pending, however, the sheriff’s department is looking at the possibility the deceased is a missing woman from Planada.

The body was discovered Thursday about 10 rows into an almond orchard in the 3000 block of Keyes Road in Snelling.

Around 9:30 a.m. a group of farm workers saw a fire with thick black smoke burning about a half-mile away. Believing it to be trash that someone had set on fire, the workers paid no attention to it until their work brought them closer to the fire and they saw it was human remains, MacKenzie said.

As detectives were working at the crime scene, the sheriff department’s patrol division was taking a report of a missing person in the 1500 block of Plainsburg Road in Planada.

Ana Lila Diaz DeCeja, 26, and her 2-month-old son Anthony Ceja-Diaz have not been seen since Thursday. MacKenzie said the two were last seen getting into her blue 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche with the California license plate number of 7J73455.

DeCeja is described as 5 feet, 6inches tall and about 160 pounds. She has black hair with brown eyes and has a mole on her upper right lip.

Ceja-Diaz is about 7 pounds, 3 ounces and 20 inches tall with black hair and brown eyes.

“The sheriff’s office is conducting a parallel investigation into both the missing person’s case and the homicide,” MacKenzie said.

If anyone has any knowledge of the homicide or the missing person’s case, or has seen the Chevrolet Avalanche, please contact the Merced Sheriff’s Office Detective Division at 385-7472 as soon as possible.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.