The auto body shop owner suspected of killing a man found inside a freezer in his Ceres shop pleaded not guilty in court Thursday.
Jacob Medina Cervantes, 26, of Modesto is charged with one count of murder in the death of the man, who is identified as “John Doe” in the criminal complaint. The man’s identity and age have not been determined.
According to the complaint, the victim was killed sometime from Dec. 1 to April 10. Police have not said how he died.
The man’s body was stuffed inside a freezer at the auto shop. Police discovered the frozen remains Monday afternoon while helping the property owner of the industrial complex off Railroad Avenue, south of Whitmore Avenue, with a civil complaint against Cervantes.
Cervantes’ bail was set at $2 million. When asking for the higher bail, Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne expressed concern about contacts the defendant has outside the country.
Cervantes was arrested Tuesday at the Ceres Police Department after he voluntarily went to the police station for an interview with detectives after learning police were looking for him.
Detective Darren 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.
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.
Cervantes will return to court May 1 at 8:30 a.m. for a pretrial hearing.