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DA swears-in first woman as Chief Investigator


The Merced County District Attorney’s Office marked a historic milestone on Thursday, Feb. 16, as the first woman in county history to be named Chief Investigator was sworn-in to office.

Anna Hazel took the oath from District Attorney Nicole Silveira during a ceremony in front of the DA’s Office on Main Street in Merced. She was cheered on by friends, family members and members of the local law enforcement community, including Sheriff Vern Warnke.

Hazel has been involved in some of Merced County’s biggest cases since she joined the DA’s Office back in 2003 as a white collar crime investigator. She was named Investigator of the Year in 2010, and she was promoted to Supervising Investigator in 2017, the first woman in the office to hold that role.

“It is not just her experience that makes Ana the right person to lead our investigations unit, she is a person of true character,” said Silveira. “I have been proud to work alongside of her because of her drive, her tenacity, and her genuine care for this office and the people in our community.”

Among Hazel’s past assignments was acting as lead investigator in the Firm build case, in which three men were ultimately sent to federal prison for conspiring to illegally use high school work study students to do asbestos removal from buildings at the former Castle Air Force Base. She also was a member of the trial team, led by District Attorney Larry Morse, in the capital murder trial of Tahua “Tao” Rivera, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Merced Police Officer Stephan Gray.

“She was especially astute in the area of fraud,” said Silveira. “She excelled in that area for us, and contributed to many high-level investigations, including the bribery of a school board official in Los Banos.”

Hazel is also a hometown talent. She attended Atwater schools until enrolling at Fresno State University where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1997. She began her career as an intern in the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office and worked in that office for five years. She earned a Master’s degree in Criminology from Fresno State in 2000 and completed the Fresno Police Academy in 2001.

“I am so honored and I am so humbled to see all of you here,” Hazel said after being sworn in as Chief Investigator. “To my District Attorney family, both present and past, my great friends and mentors in law enforcement, thank you so much for everything you do in service to this community that I love, that I live in, and that I strive to serve well each and every day. I truly love this profession. … This is the greatest profession in the world and I am so proud and honored to have been able to wear this badge now for 20 years.”

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