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April 15, 2014

Body found in freezer at Ceres auto shop, shop's owner arrested

A Ceres auto body shop owner was arrested Tuesday after a man’s body was found stuffed into a freezer at the business.

An auto body shop owner was arrested Tuesday after a man’s body was found stuffed into a freezer at the business.

Jacob Medina Cervantes, 26, of Modesto was arrested on suspicion of murder about 10:30 a.m. at the Ceres Police Department, said Detective Darren Venn. Cervantes voluntarily went to the police station for an interview with detectives after learning police were looking for him.

Police discovered the frozen remains Monday afternoon while assisting the property owner of the industrial complex off Railroad Avenue, south of Whitmore Avenue, with a civil complaint against Cervantes. Venn said customers had complained that they’d paid for work that had not been completed, and no one was answering the phone at The Shop Customs, which advertises custom paint jobs, frame restoration and mechanical work.

Police called in crime scene technicians from the state Department of Justice to process the scene and remove the freezer. The body, which was intact, was kept inside the freezer and taken to the Stanislaus County Coroner’s Office for examination. An autopsy had not been completed because the body still was frozen, Venn said.

The man’s identity and age have not been determined. It also is unknown how long he was inside the freezer, when he died and how he died.

Venn said detectives also are investigating Cervantes’ business history. The recent complaints about failing to render paid services were not the first. Cervantes has owned multiple auto body shops throughout Stanislaus County, Venn said.

Todd Greenwood, who owns Greenwood Machine Shops in the same industrial complex, said crime is common in the area.

When he saw the patrol cars at the shop Monday, he said he presumed it was a drug raid, something he’s seen in the complex in the past. Metal theft and vandalism also occur regularly, according to Greenwood, who’s been at the location since 1988.

He said the owner of the complex, who could not be reached for comment, makes an effort to rent to honest people, but unsavory business people still come and go.

Authorities ask anyone with information on the case to call Detective Derek Perry at (209) 538-5730.

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