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Car Dealer Found Dead in El Rio Field

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The naked body of a 45-year-old Santa Paula Chevrolet dealer was found covered with brush in an El Rio cilantro field Thursday morning, authorities said.

Anthony Bridges, owner of Tony Bridges Chevrolet in Santa Paula, was discovered by a field worker, face down and concealed with tumbleweeds and dry brush about 10:30 a.m., said Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Lance Young.

Authorities are not yet calling the death a homicide, but are investigating it as one, Young said. No obvious injuries were found on the body, which appeared to have been dumped at the field near the 200 block of Stroube Street, Young said.

Bridges’ body appeared to have been there for two days to a week, Young said. His daughter reported him missing about a week ago when he did not contact anyone at his dealership after returning from a trip.

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“He had flown to Missouri to see his family and had returned on Dec. 17,” Young said. “And on the 18th, his daughter hadn’t seen or heard from him. He didn’t show up at work, which was unusual.”

According to Young, Bridges was not on any medication and did not have a history of heart attacks. Bridges also was not the kind of person to disappear, Young said. “No enemies, no threats. We don’t have any idea of any ill will toward him,” Young said.

Bridges’ car, a white 1989 Chevrolet Cavalier with license plate 2NZC441, is still missing, Young said.

Young said Bridges may have died elsewhere and been taken to the field. “But the nude part is unusual,” he said. “Right now we have to find someone who is willing to talk to us and we might find out why.”

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Neighbors said they had not heard or seen anything suspicious the past few days. The three-acre field where his body was discovered is owned by Donlon Farms, Young said. According to the worker who found Bridges, the body was almost completely covered with brush.

Bridges moved to Santa Paula from Missouri when he was 6 or 7 because of asthma, said Truman Bridges, a relative. “He was very quiet and reserved. He didn’t go out around too much,” said Bridges, who called himself a distant cousin.

“He was one of those energetic Missourians,” said Les Maland, a Santa Paula city councilman who knew Bridges. “He contributed to many things. He helped underwrite one or two plays for the theater.”

Truman Bridges was surprised to hear about the circumstances of his relative’s death, but added, “I don’t know him that well and I can’t speculate.”

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An autopsy has been scheduled for today, said Mitch Breeze, Ventura County deputy coroner. Breeze said the coroner’s office would release a cause of death as soon as it is determined.

Times correspondent Patrick McCartney contributed to this story.


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