Bizarre new details in a case involving a burned body in Fresno County

FRESNO, Calif.

Police were investigating an assault at an upscale home on Butler near Minnewawa. The trail led them to a burned body on Central near Del Rey in Fresno County.

Police spent three days at the home, collecting evidence in what they knew was an assault and what has turned out to be a homicide. But the investigation is complicated by the fact that the woman who lived here had to run away from her own home months ago.

Behind this wrought iron gate lies a mess left behind by the people who've occupied the house for the last several months. Police arrived here on Tuesday and uncovered an assault, but it took them three days to collect all the evidence of what happened inside.

The trail led to a torched truck in a lonely vineyard and orchard near Sanger. The truck belonged to Christopher Zuniga, who police are calling the victim of an assault at the house.

Investigators believe he may be the burned body they took out of the orchard. But Zuniga has been a suspect more often than a victim. The 38-year-old has been convicted of several crimes, including assault with a deadly weapon, auto theft, and felony drug possession. And the homeowner says Zuniga had no business in the house.

In fact, the couple who owns the house is going through a divorce. Their attorneys tell Action News the wife stayed in the home and, while suffering from mental issues, met some unsavory people.

Once those people got into the house, they wouldn't leave. The woman tried to lock the gate, but found it broken. Her attorney tried to change the locks, but was stopped by a group of men.

A few months ago, the woman left the home in fear for her life and she hasn't gone back.

The website zillow.com lists the house's value at $425,000, but investigators say the trash you see on the outside is nothing compared to what they saw on the inside.

Coroners might have to wait for a DNA analysis before they positively identify Zuniga. Meanwhile, the homeowner is taking control of this house Thursday night and says he'll do whatever it takes to defend it.

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