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Relatives of Santiago Steve Ornelas, 37, of Castro Valley, said Friday that coroner's officials told them that tattoos on a body found in a yard waste container Thursday night match those of their missing relative.

OAKLAND -- Relatives of a Castro Valley man missing for two weeks said Friday they have learned that tattoos on a body found in a yard waste container Thursday night match those of their missing relative.

The body was discovered by workers at 7:40 p.m. Thursday in the yard of a home in the 1000 block of 81st Avenue, in East Oakland. Police are investigating, but have not said whether the death is being treated as a homicide.

It was not clear Friday afternoon if investigators believe the man climbed into the container or was forced into it by someone else.

Santiago Steve Ornelas, 37, of Castro Valley, had been missing since 11 p.m. April 5, when he was involved in a car crash following a police chase, at 82nd Avenue and Rudsdale Street ¿-- around the corner from where the body was found Thursday.

He was spotted by witnesses walking away from the crash, bleeding from his arm and possibly suffering a head injury, his sister Danielle Romero said Friday.

Romero said a spokeswoman from the Alameda County Coroner's office told her Friday afternoon that officials have identified the body as Ornelas by the tattoos on the arms, chest and back.

Officials at the coroner's office could not be reached Friday afternoon. There was no information released about a cause of death or when an autopsy might be performed.

Ornelas had been on parole since 2010, stemming from a 2008 home-invasion robbery in Newark.


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California Highway Patrol officers were chasing Ornelas and his friend in a car on the night he was last seen, Romero said Friday. The friend is believed to be Santiago Reina, whom family members said was with Ornelas the night he went missing.

Reina was later arrested and is in custody at Santa Rita jail in Dublin, jail records show.

A 33-year-old parolee, Reina was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, evading police, driving on a suspended license and resisting arrest, according to jail records.

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office and Oakland police had been investigating Ornelas' disappearance as a missing persons case, said sheriff's office spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson.

Romero, of Newark, said she received a Facebook message -- from a person she does not know -- late April 11, telling her to check the 1000 block of 81st Avenue for her brother. The message said, "I also wanted to let you know if there is any access to any type of storage or like a fire hydrant or accessible attic going to the roof make sure to check there. He could have lost a lot of blood."

Romero said family members went last weekend to 81st and 82nd avenues to search for Ornelas and ask residents if they had seen him.

Romero said she emailed the message to an Alameda County Sheriff's investigator and Nelson said the email was sent to Oakland police to investigate.

Oakland police declined to comment on the pending investigation Friday afternoon.

Ornelas was on parole after he was arrested in Newark in July 2008. Police said he dropped his cell phone at the Newark Boulevard home that he and another man had burglarized while the resident was home.

In that case, he was arrested on suspicion of several felonies including attempted burglary, false imprisonment and possession of a weapon and he later went to prison, police said. Police said the resident wrestled a shotgun away from one of the intruders.

Reach Kristin J. Bender at kbender@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/kjbender.