The man accused of killing his lover and storing his body in a deep freezer in late 2013 or early 2014 will face trial next October.
Charged in the murder of Thomas Cervantes, otherwise known as Thomas Kroger, is Jacob Medina Cervantes, a 28-year-old ex-businessman who's abandoned The Shop Customs auto body shop at 1828 Whitmore Avenue yielded Kroger's frozen corpse. The suspect plead innocent on April 17, 2014 in County Superior Court.
Cervantes, who has been locked up at the Stanislaus County Jail on a $2 million bail, will face a pretrial hearing on Feb. 29, 2016 with a murder trial scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 25, 2016.
Kroger's body was discovered on April 14, 2014 in an industrial building south of Whitmore Avenue and west of Highway 99. Police believe the killing of the 49-year-old victim occurred between Dec. 1, 2013 to April 10, 2014. Cervantes was arrested three days later after he showed up at the Ceres Police Station.
The discovery of the body began when Ceres Police were called by the landlord of the industrial park. The landlord had leased the blue warehouse building tucked behind the northernmost row of buildings to the owner of the auto shop and feared the operation was abandoned. The owner of one of the four vehicles found stored inside the building became alarmed because he could not contact the shop owner about the status of his vehicle. One police official described the auto shop owner as "pretty flaky" with a history of abandoning work sites and leaving vehicles and car parts behind.
During a preliminary trial held last month, the defendant gave his explanation of the death of his husband and business partner at the auto body shop where the body was found. He said Kroger was upset about cars not being repaired on time and came at him with a knife at the shop. The defendant said he removed his jacket and used it as a wrap to protect himself from the blade. He also told police that he punched Kroger in the face six to seven times in an attempt to stop the knife attack and then resorted to choking him after Kroger dropped the knife.
He kept the body in a chest type freezer to preserve the body.