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Oscar Pelayo, 39

Oscar Pelayo, a 39-year-old Latino, was found dead Saturday, Oct. 31, in the Los Angeles River bed near Firestone Boulevard and the 710 Freeway in South Gate, according to Los Angeles County coroner's records.

A South Gate police officer was driving to work about 4:50 a.m. when he noticed a car on fire, said sheriff's homicide Det. Phil Guzman, who is handling the investigation.

The officer alerted the fire department, who arrived to put out the fire. While they were extinguishing the blaze, fire officials discovered a body in the trunk, Guzman said. The person was pronounced dead at the scene.

Because of the severity of the burns, officials were unable to identify the body in the trunk, Guzman said. Several months later, through DNA identification, investigators determined the victim was Oscar Pelayo of Bell. 

The cause of death was listed as a gunshot wound, according to the coroner's office. The car in which Pelayo was found was a stolen vehicle, Guzman said.

Investigators have yet to make an arrest in connection with the killing or establish the reason behind it, Guzman said, but it does not appear to be gang-related.

[Note: This homicide did not appear on the report at the time of Pelayo's death. It was added July 28, 2010, after The Times was contacted about the omission by a victim service representative from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, who had been in contact with his family.]

Anyone with information about the death of Oscar Pelayo is asked to contact Det. Guzman at (323) 890-5500. Those who wish to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

-- Sarah Ardalani

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