Four family members, including an infant, who were kidnapped Monday morning from a business in Central California’s Merced County have been found dead, authorities announced Wednesday night. The victims were discovered in a remote farm area of Merced County.
In a news briefing, Merced County Sheriff Vernon Warnke said the bodies of the four victims were discovered at about 5:30 p.m. local time by a farm worker “during the course of his job duties.”
The victims were found “relatively close together,” Warnke added. He did not disclose if investigators had determined their causes of death.
On Monday morning, the victims — an infant girl, her parents and her uncle, were kidnapped from a Merced County business. They were identified as 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her mother, 27-year-old Jasleen Kaur, her father, 36-year-old Jasdeep Singh, and her 39-year-old uncle, Amandeep Singh.
On Tuesday, a person of interest in the kidnapping was apprehended. Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, was taken into custody after a credit card belonging to one of the victims was used Tuesday morning at an ATM in the Merced County city of Atwater, the sheriff’s office said.
Salgado attempted suicide prior to being arrested, the sheriff’s office said. He was hospitalized in critical condition.
In a Wednesday morning news conference, prior to the discovery of the bodies, sheriff’s officials released surveillance footage which they said showed the victims being led out of the business by an armed man.
The video shows the man exiting the building with Jasdeep and Amandeep, who are both zip-tied at the hands, and placing them in the back of a pickup truck. The truck leaves, but returns six minutes later. The suspect goes back inside, and leaves soon after with Kaur and her daughter Aroohi Dheri.
There was still no word on a motive in the kidnappings, or the possible connection between Salgado and the victims. Warnke said Salgado was convicted of robbery in 2005. Salgado was paroled in 2015 and has not had any major contact with law enforcement since, Warnke said.
Warnke said that as of Wednesday morning, Salgado has not been able to communicate with investigators. He has not yet been criminally charged in the case.
The investigation was prompted when a pickup truck registered to Amandeep was found ablaze late Monday morning on a rural road in Winton, a community a few miles north of the city of Merced, the sheriff’s office said.
California Highway Patrol officers attempted to contact Amandeep, and when they were unable to do so, they reached a family member, who was also unable to contact Amandeep. Eventually, the family member reported all four missing. By early Monday afternoon, sheriff’s investigators had determined that the four had been kidnapped from the business.
— Victoria Albert contributed to this report.
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