Man found in auto-shop freezer was married to alleged killer

The man whose body was found stuffed in an abandoned auto-body shop's freezer in the Central Valley was married to the man accused of killing him.

Ceres police identified the victim Friday as 49-year-old Thomas Kroger, whose body was discovered April 14 in a chest-type freezer when police arrived at the body shop to investigate claims of services not being rendered.

Kroger's husband, Jacob Cervantes, 26, of Modesto was arrested the next day and has pleaded not guilty to murder.

The men were married Aug. 13, the Modesto Bee reported.

Officials were awaiting autopsy results to determine how Kroger, who changed his last name to Cervantes when he married, died. Authorities have said only that the body was found intact. 

According to the criminal complaint, Kroger was killed between Dec. 1 and April 10, the Bee reported. The cause of death was not revealed.

Bail for Cervantes, who owned the shop in the small town south of Modesto, was set at $2 million after prosecutors expressed concern about his contacts outside the country.

Cervantes has owned several auto-body shops across Stanislaus County.

Police told the Bee that Kroger recently lived in the Modesto and San Francisco areas, after having resided in Oklahoma and Texas.

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jason.wells@latimes.com

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