Autopsy reveals how Sammy Mercado was gunned down

Much of the evidence was destroyed through decomposition. But, even so, doctors were able to see Sammy Mercado was shot through his clothing and also in the face.
Doctors were able to see Sammy Mercado was shot through his clothing and also in the face.
The forensic pathologist who completed an autopsy on a teenage murder victim, revealed new details about how he was killed, explaining to jurors Sammy Mercado had been shot at least one time at close range.

Investigators say the 16-year-old was shot and died in a field east of Fresno in April 2012. His remains were found later that same year.

Much of the evidence was destroyed through decomposition. But, even so, doctors were able to see Sammy was shot through his clothing and also in the face.

Doctor Venu Gopal went to the orange grove in October of 2012 to see the hole where Sammy Mercado was buried.

He wanted to get a firsthand look at the scene and ensure all of the evidence would be collected and preserved as well as possible.

Doctor Gopal said, "I visited the scene and participated in the excavation of the body, meaning the body was in a shallow grave and I had to take the body out."

Sammy disappeared six months before his body was discovered by Fresno County Sheriff's canine dogs, nine miles away from the marijuana grow where he was last seen. His friend testified Wednesday the group drove to the grow to steal some pot, when Sammy was shot and killed.

Ernie Chanmany is one of three suspects, who investigators say was protecting the pot the morning of the murder. Detectives do not believe he is the shooter.

Thursday jurors were shown pictures of the grave and the remains in the state they were found. Sammy's clothing was the most identifiable, and did have some gunshot holes in it. His face, although only skeletal remains, had an obvious wound.

"What it is telling you is the bullet has entered here and basically come out on the right side of the face."

Two other witnesses, who have some knowledge about what happened were also called to testify. After they invoked their right to remain silent, they were both granted immunity in exchange for their testimony. The deputy district attorney said the witnesses feared their statements would implicate them in crimes, including cultivating marijuana or being an accessory after the murder.

Chanmany has been the only suspect held to answer for the crime so far.

Investigators are still hoping to make additional arrests in the murder, including the actual shooter.



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