Merced County sheriff's deputies rushed to an almond orchard off Highway 59 and Dickensen Ferry Road last November, after someone in the area found a man's body near a burn pile. They later discovered the victim was 21-year-old Bryan Sanchez. Relatives reported him missing days earlier.
Bryan lived primarily with his sister and her family in Merced. He was the youngest of six children and an avid runner with dreams of being a pro football player. His niece wrote a letter to heaven after his murder, "Dear Bryan I hope you are safe with god and he is taking care of you, and I know you miss us too as much as we miss you"
The heartbroken family is coming forward in hopes someone can help them find closure.
"We can't go back. We can only go forward, and we're trying that, but we wouldn't want this to happen to someone else," the victim's brother-in-law Jose Flores said.
Investigators believe someone may have taken advantage of Bryan because he had developmental disabilities that gave him the mental capacity of a teenager. But they are still searching for a motive and the suspect.
"These scenarios like many others are difficult in the first 24 hours and becomes more difficult after a year," Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin said.
Relatives last saw Bryan at his mother's house in Atwater on Nov. 16. He was later spotted at an apartment complex on Broadway near First Street. Detectives believe his body had been in the orchard for about five days.
"We're actively pursuing this case, but just like anything else we're going to need the public's help," Pazin said.
Bryan's loved ones say solving this case is the only way they can start to heal, "If there's anybody out there that saw him or knows anything to please come forward," the victim's sister Patty Flores said.
Family members said they are now dreading facing another set of holidays without Bryan and without answers. Anyone who has any information is urged to contact the sheriff's office and you can provide tips anonymously.