Merced County homicide rate increases in 2010

MERCED, Calif.

28 people were killed this year in the cities and un-incorporated areas of Merced County. That's compared to 22 in 2005, and eight in 2000.

The most recent murder was that of Ana Diaz De Ceja. A couple is now in jail, accused of killing her and kidnapping her baby boy before dropping him off on a Le Grand doorstep.

Sheriff Mark Pazin says many of the homicide cases this year were crimes of passion, as opposed to random acts of violence or gang crimes. He also says his detectives have solved 13 of the 15 cases they've investigated.

"We're way above national average when solving those homicide cases. So though there are more homicides to investigate, I'm grateful that we're putting people behind bars."

Gang shootings and assaults also increased this year in Merced County, but the number of gang-related homicides declined.

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