Ana Lilia Diaz de Ceja, the pretty Hispanic mother who was kidnapped, murdered, and burned in an almond orchard in Planada, California, six years ago, is the featured case for Investigation Discovery’s Killer Instinct With Chris Hansen on ID. In the episode titled, “A Kid To Kill For,” Hansen investigates the driving force behind a ruthless couple’s desire to steal a baby at all costs. The victim’s 2-month-old baby, who had also been abducted, was found alive on a doorstep days after the abduction. For the murder of Ana Ceja, Teresa Ceja-Robles, also known as Maria Teresa Ceja Robles and Maria Ceja received a life sentence, along with her live-in boyfriend, Jose Velarde.
Missing Mom’s Body Found Charred In Almond Orchard
The murder of 26-year-old Ana Lila Diaz De Ceja, aka Ana Ceja, is one of the most heinous cases you’ll ever read about. The loving mother had no idea that a chance encounter with Teresa Robles, aka Maria Ceja, a drug-addicted woman who allegedly sold scarves, would mean the end of her life.
Merced County Detectives say that in December 2010, just a week before Christmas, Ana Ceja and her infant son, Anthony Ceja-Diaz, vanished on their way to a doctor’s appointment that morning. Neighbors saw Ana leave in her truck, and her husband, Luis Ceja, had already left for work.
On the evening of Ana Ceja’s disappearance, Luis Ceja discovered that his wife had not picked her child up from the bus stop and had not returned home by 8 p.m. A report was filed and police began searching for the missing mother and her infant child.
What Luis Ceja didn’t know was that Ana’s body had already been found. The charred body had been discovered hours earlier in an almond orchard, near Snelling, according to Psychology. An autopsy report would later reveal that she had possibly been choked to death.
Police already knew that her husband was most likely not the killer and a family member remembered Ana Lilia Diaz de Ceja saying that she was going to a pregnant woman’s home to look at some scarves. California court records state the following.
“On December 1, 2010, Ceja and Ana saw each other at Planada Elementary School. Ana was holding her son, Anthony. They spoke about the scarves Ceja made and sold, and made plans for Ana to come to Ceja’s house the next day to look at her scarves. Ceja told Ana that she was pregnant. That evening, Ana told her sister-in-law that Ceja was pregnant and due any day. Ana’s sister-in-law thought that odd because she had seen Ceja at the post office a month earlier and she did not look pregnant. Ana said she was going to Ceja’s home the following day to look at scarves Ceja made and sold.”
For the next several days, Luis Ceja grieved for Ana Ceja and ached to know the whereabouts of his missing infant son. On the fifth day, a neighbor who was defrosting his windows heard a strange sound, and when he went to investigate, he found a baby in the freezing cold, the court record continues.
“Javier Sanchez was outside de-icing his windshield when he heard a sound coming from his neighbor’s house. Investigating, he found a naked, motionless baby boy, later determined to be Ana’s son Anthony, lying in a pillowcase on the doorstep. Sanchez rang his neighbor’s bell and gave the baby to Aurelia Garcia, who answered the door. The baby’s head was shaved and he was cold and stiff. Garcia and her daughter and son-in-law held the baby and warmed him using body heat and heated towels.”
Police eventually received a tip that pointed them in the direction of 33-year-old Teresa Robles (Maria Ceja) and her lover 37-year-old lover, Jose Velarde. Authorities say the suspects were hooked on meth. During the investigation, police learned that Teresa Ceja Robles had been on the hunt for a baby. She already had children but was unable to give Jose Velarde the son that he wanted. Out of desperation, she targeted Ana Ceja after meeting her and holding her baby weeks earlier.
Then, the couple devised a plan to lure Ana Diaz de Ceja to their home to look at some scarves that Teresa Robles claimed to be selling. When Ana arrived that morning, she was led to a room and choked by Jose Velarde. Then, he transported her dead body to the orchard and set it on fire.
Police put together a solid case against the diabolical couple. A jury convicted Teresa Robles of first-degree murder and Jose Velarde to second-degree murder. Teresa received a life sentence and Jose received a sentence of 27 years to life, according to ABC News. That gives little comfort to Luis Ceja, who will now have to raise their children without their real mother. Below appears to be a Facebook photo of Luis Ceja with a boy pictured in 2012.
Go behind the scenes of the investigation with Chris Hansen this Monday night at 9/8 p.m. Central on Investigation Discovery (ID).
[Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Images]