CERES, Calif. (AP) — A man found dead in the freezer of an abandoned Central California auto shop was married to the man charged with killing him, authorities said.
Police identified Thomas Kroger, 49, as the person discovered April 14 in a chest freezer at The Shop Customs in Ceres, a small community located in Stanislaus County about 100 miles east of San Francisco.
The Modesto Bee reported that authorities believe Kroger had been killed between December and April 10, but the cause of death remains unknown pending the outcome of autopsy reports. Investigators said they have yet to find any of Kroger’s relatives, adding that he has lived in Modesto, San Francisco, Oklahoma and Texas.
Jacob Cervantes, 26, was called in by detectives for an interview the same day they found the body. He was arrested on suspicion of murder and later pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in the Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Police discovered the body when the building’s owner let them in to investigate complaints from customers, who said that paint and body work had not been done on their cars and nobody was answering the shop’s phone.
The newspaper reports that Cervantes and Kroger were married Aug. 13, about 2 ½ weeks after his former partner, Bernabe Garcia, died of cancer.
Cervantes signed his marriage license to Kroger, claiming no prior spouses, but the newspaper cited public records showing he had a wife. She declined to comment, as did Cervantes’ parents.
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)