MERCED - Several males were arrested Tuesday in the killing of a woman who was bound, gagged and set afire, a Merced County sheriff's spokesman said.
Detective Paul Barile shared few details about the arrests, although he said the department is “pretty confident” that the men responsible for the death of Rosa Alicia Avina were in custody. He said the department has been reluctant to disclose details of its investigation, fearing the suspects would flee the area.
A press conference was scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday.
“This is a horrific crime,” Barile declared. “Things like this should not be happening in our community, and it’s important to get people like this off the street.”
Avina, 27, lived in Livingston. She died Oct. 26 inside a burn unit at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose. She suffered second- and third-degree burns over 95 percent of her body.
Sheriff Mark Pazin said the department's Major Crimes Unit recently conducted search warrants of residences believed connected to the case — three in Turlock, one in Delhi and one in Livingston. He said that investigators were working with an "associate" of Avina's who may know her whereabouts in the hours leading up to the crime.
Sometime during the early morning hours of Oct. 24, investigators believe, several suspects used plastic ties to bind Avina at her hands and feet, placed a bag over her head and drove her to a remote location near Ballico.
They put Avina inside an abandoned boat near a burn pile, doused her with a flammable liquid and set her on fire. Hours later, after the suspects had fled, Avina walked nearly a mile to a farm and collapsed, where workers eventually found her.