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Woman set afire near Ballico clings to life

BALLICO - A 27 year-old Merced woman who authorities say was burned and left to die on a dusty country road is clinging to life in a burn unit at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

Merced County Sheriff's Department investigators on Wednesday said they are seeking multiple suspects in the crime, which they are calling a horrific attempted homicide.

Sheriff went to the intersection of South and Ballico avenues around 7:30 a.m. after a group of farm workers found the woman lying on the front yard of a farm house and called 911, according to sheriff's spokesman Paul Barile.

Although Barile said details of the crime are still preliminary, detectives are investigating leads that the woman may have been kidnapped during a home invasion that occurred in Merced or Stanislaus counties, possibly in the Turlock area.

Investigators believe the suspects took the woman early Wednesday morning to a remote location on South Avenue, between Pepper Street and Ballico Avenue, and ignited her body. After the suspects left, Barile said the woman walked nearly a half-mile down South Avenue, where she collapsed.

The woman had second and third degree burns covering her entire body — and was burned so badly that investigators did not know her gender when they first saw her, Barile said.

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