A 27-year-old woman who was bound at the hands and feet and burned Wednesday remained in "grave" condition, with second- and third-degree burns on 95 percent of her body, Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin said during a news conference Thursday.
Although investigators remained tight-lipped about their investigation into the crime, Pazin identified the woman as Rosa Alicia Avina, a resident of the Livingston area. Pazin said the Sheriff's Department decided to release the woman's identity in hopes that those with information about the crime will step forward.
Sheriff's investigators are working with an "associate" of Avina's who might know where she was in the hours before the crime, Pazin said. He called the crime "barbaric," saying the heat from the fire was so intense the plastic zip-ties around Avina's feet melted into her flesh. "She was bound and literally left for dead," Pazin said.
Investigators believe the kidnappers tied Avina's hands and feet, placed a bag over her head and sometime early Wednesday morning drove her to South Avenue in the Ballico area, between Pepper Street and Ballico Avenue.
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They then placed Avina inside an abandoned boat near a burn pile, doused her with a flammable liquid and set her on fire.
Hours after the kidnappers had left, Avina walked nearly a mile to the intersection of South and Ballico avenues and collapsed on the front yard of a farm property. A group of farmworkers found her about 7:30 a.m.
Investigators do not know if Avina was beaten or assaulted before being burned, Pazin said.
Avina was on parole at the time the crime occurred, accord- ing to sheriff's spokesman Paul Barile. She was arrested in 2000 on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, convicted in 2002 and sentenced to two years in prison, Barile said. She was released on parole but was sent back to prison for parole violations for narcotics possession in recent years, he said.
Investigators are not releasing any details about the suspects or whether Avina knew them. "We're just 36 hours into this, and there are still a lot of moving parts," Pazin said. "This isn't 'Hawaii Five-O,' where we are going to have this wrapped up in 60 minutes plus commercials."
Barile said investigators first believed there might have been more than one victim, but no longer think that's the case. He said investigators are exploring the possibility that Avina may have been kidnapped during a home invasion or robbery in Merced or Stanislaus counties, possibly in the Turlock area.
Investigators are asking anyone with information about this crime to call the Sheriff's Department's anonymous tip line at 385-7616.