Fresno County murder suspect arrested in Utah

October 19, 2012 12:38:20 AM PDT
Action News has learned a Fresno man is in a Utah jail right now. Local authorities said he is wanted in the murder investigation of a missing teenager from Sanger.

16-year-old Sammy Mercado disappeared in April. The Fresno County Sheriff's Office said he went missing while he and some friends were trying to steal marijuana from an illegal grow near Sanger.

Now, 21-year-old Ernie Chanmany is in jail on unrelated drug charges. He's been wanted in Fresno County for Mercado's murder and weapons charges since May.

Utah investigators told Action News Ernie Chanmany is in jail in Sevier County on drug charges. They say they found Chanmany with more than 100 pounds of marijuana in the trunk of his car. Now Fresno County authorities are working with the Utah Highway Patrol on both cases.

The UHP said on October 6th it found this marijuana in the back of a Chevy Camaro on Interstate 70 in Sevier County, about 170 miles south of Salt Lake City, UT.

According to UHP, Chanmany was transporting 110 pounds of pot from Central California to Northern Colorado. He was pulled over for improper signaling. Chanmany is being held in Utah on marijuana smuggling charges.

Fresno County authorities also said he had something to do with Sammy Mercado's death. He was declared a wanted murder suspect after detectives found Mercado's blood in a field along Annadale near Willow in Fresno County. This is the last place Mercado was seen alive.

Detectives said on April 12 Mercado and two friends tried to steal pot from a growsite when two men began chasing them. One began shooting at the group. Mercado was left behind by the two people he was with. He was last seen on the ground.

A week later, two pick-up trucks were found in an orchard west of Fresno. The Sheriff's Office said the trucks belong to Chanmany's family. The pick-up trucks were seen by witnesses at the pot growsite when Mercado disappeared.

Since then, Mercado's family has held out hope he'd be found safe. But with Chanmany's out-of-state arrest they said they're left with more questions than answers.

Fresno County investigators has not yet found Mercado's body. They declined to comment on the investigation.


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