Two Southern California men arrested in kidnapping, slaying of Santa Cruz CEO
Tushar Atre was asleep inside his oceanfront home in Santa Cruz on Oct. 1 when a group of men armed with a rifle emerged from a darkened alley, entered his home and kidnapped him.
The group forced the 50-year-old businessman into his white BMW shortly before 3 a.m. and drove him to a property he owned on Soquel San Jose Road in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Hours later, authorities found Atre fatally shot in the car.
Though they suspected from the beginning that the motive in the slaying was robbery, the two crime scenes left authorities with more questions than answers, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said during a news conference this week.
“We had a murder scene, we had a home invasion kidnapping scene and a really grainy video,” he said. “That was it. We had this huge suspect pool we had to narrow down.”
On Thursday — more than seven months after Atre’s death and after about 3,000 hours of detective work — officials announced that four men had been arrested on suspicion of murder, kidnapping and robbery.
Joshua Camps, 23, and Kurtis Charters, 22, both of Lancaster; Stephen Lindsay, 22, of Burbank; and Kaleb Charters, 19, of St. Clair Shores, Mich., were taken into custody at or near their homes Tuesday, sheriff’s Lt. Brian Cleveland said.
Kurtis Charters, Camps and Lindsay are being held in the Santa Cruz County Jail without bail. Kurtis Charters’ brother, Kaleb, is being extradited from Michigan this week.
Kaleb Charters and Lindsay were early persons of interest in the investigation. Both men had worked for Atre at his cannabis business, Interstitial Systems. Camps was an associate of the group, Cleveland said.
Investigators say they connected the men to Atre’s slaying through forensic evidence found at the crime scene, digital evidence and information obtained through hundreds of interviews conducted over the course of the probe.
Cleveland declined to discuss each man’s suspected role in the plot or offer details about the robbery.
“This was a senseless crime. There’s really no explanation,” he said. “These people wanted monetary gain and took advantage of the situation.”
According to his social media profiles, Atre was an avid surfer whose home overlooked the Pacific Ocean. His Instagram profile depicts an adventurous, nature-filled life. His Twitter profile reads: “Surfer. Mushroom forager. Always on the go.”
In addition to his cannabis business, Atre was the owner of AtreNet, a web design company founded in 1996 that caters to Silicon Valley corporate businesses. According to AtreNet’s website, the company’s clients include technology, marketing and software companies such as Hewlett-Packard, BuzzLogic, Seagate and Tealeaf Technology.
Hart said he hoped the arrests would help bring Atre’s family some closure.
“This case took vigilance. It took resilience,” he said. “We butted up against a lot of closed doors during this investigation and every time that happened our investigators found somewhere else to go with this case. This case was solved by outstanding police work being supported by a lot of different groups.”
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