Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008
Celina native found frozen
By Shelley Grieshop
A 51-year-old Celina native was found frozen in a ditch beneath his pickup truck on Sunday at a dumpsite not far from his home in Ohio City.
A cause of death of Richard R. "Jose" Berlanga is pending an autopsy. Officials believe he was dead for two days before his body - partly submerged in a frozen creek - was discovered beneath the 2004 Ford Ranger pickup truck by a passing motorist.
Berlanga, who has four siblings residing in Rockford, hadn't spoken to family members since Friday and failed to show up that night for his third-shift job at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., St. Marys.
The Van Wert County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate the death but say Berlanga likely died from injuries sustained in an auto accident, which took place east of Ball and Skinner roads. Berlanga's brother, Lupe Berlanga, who lived with him in Ohio City, told authorities he last spoke to his brother between 3 and 4 p.m. Friday.
Jose Berlanga, who reportedly switched diabetes medication recently, told his brother he intended to go to work that night.
A passer-by on his way to the dumpsite found the body after he spotted the truck's tailgate sticking out of the ditch. Berlanga's truck was nose-first in the ditch. His body was discovered face-up beneath the truck, however, the truck was not resting on the body. The lower portion of Berlanga's body was frozen in the water-filled ditch, officials stated.
A phone call to Van Wert County Coroner Dr. Scott Jarvis was not returned at press time.
Services for Berlanga, a U.S. Army veteran, will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Cowan & Son Funeral Home, Van Wert.