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Burned Body Found Along Highway 101 Identified as Missing L.A. Man

Santa Barbara County and Los Angeles authorities hold a news conference, but few details are released

Officials with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department held a news conference in Santa Barbara on Wednesday to release more details about a potential homicide case involving a badly burned body found July 15 alongside Highway 101 about six miles south of Buellton, but the information released poses more questions than answers.

Bernardo Alvarez
Bernardo Alvarez

Sheriff’s deputies responded about 4 a.m. July 15 to reports of a brush fire on the northbound side of the freeway on the Nojoqui Grade, and a body was discovered among the remnants.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown identified the man Wednesday as 48-year-old Bernardo Alvarez of Tarzana, a district of Los Angeles. Several of Alvarez’s family members attended the news conference, but requested that they not be interviewed.

“We pledge to them we’ll do everything we can to discover the circumstances of his death,” Brown said of the family.

Little other information was released. The investigation has been a joint effort of the SBSO and LAPD, which also had detectives at the news conference. The agencies said they had followed up on more than 35 tips in the case.

Brown said Alvarez was dead before his body was set on fire, but he hadn’t been dead longer than 24 hours. An autopsy revealed that the man had a deformity — three missing fingers — which led investigators to believe that the man matched the description of someone who had gone missing several days earlier.

A DNA test confirmed that the body belonged to Alvarez.

Los Angeles Detective Joel Price said Alvarez was seen leaving a restaurant in Tarzana the night of July 14, and that a missing persons bulletin was issued on July 17. Alvarez worked at a local restaurant and was well known in the area, Price said.

Brown said Alvarez’s body had a limited amount of alcohol and drugs in it, according to a toxicology screen done by the coroner’s department. The cause and manner of death are still under investigation. There were no obvious signs of trauma on the body, Brown said, but added that it had been severely burned. A motive for the death has not been determined.

“We’re looking for the public’s assistance,” Price said.

Anyone traveling in the area during the early morning of July 15 is asked to report any information they may have. Price said he believes Alvarez had contacts in Santa Barbara County, and anyone with any information on the case can call the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department at 805.681.4200 or L.A. police at 818.374.7725.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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