Disturbing pictures shown in Snelling murder, kidnap case

MERCED, Calif.

Investigators say Teresa Robles and Jose Velarde strangled the victim and burned her body in 2010. They're being tried together -- but each have their own jury.

Witnesses testified about finding Ana Diaz De Ceja's charred remains in an orchard. The pictures are too graphic for us to show, and extremely difficult for family members in the courtroom.

Action News had the only camera in court as the district attorney's office began calling witnesses in the trial of Teresa Robles and Jose Velarde. We were not allowed to record audio though as witnesses took the stand. Christian Sanchez testified about finding Ana Diaz De Ceja's charred body in an orchard near Snelling in December of 2010. He and other workers initially thought someone was burning boxes or tree branches -- but realized hours later it was a person.

Prosecutors showed pictures of the unrecognizable victim to the juries for both defendants. Ana's family members say it's difficult seeing the evidence, and the accused killers.

The victim's cousin, Yanaira Granados said, "It's emotionally draining to see their faces and just hear how everything happened. It's very hard for us to stay strong, but we have to do what we have to do for justice."

During opening statements the DA told jurors the couple plotted the crime as a way to steal Ana's two-month-old son. Investigators say Robles lured Ana to her home to look at handmade scarves, and that's when Velarde killed her.

Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse said, "He attacks Ana, knocking her to the floor, where he begins strangling her."

Authorities say five days later, the couple dropped little Anthony on a doorstep in Le Grand because of the media attention surrounding the case. He was soon reunited with his family.

"He's so big now," said Yanaira. "He talks a lot. He's very healthy after everything that happened he's doing pretty good."

Ana's mother-in-law said on the stand she's helping raise Anthony. She also testified about the last time she saw his mother alive.

Prosecutors will continue calling witnesses Tuesday. The trial is expected to last throughout most of this month.

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