Suspect booked on murder, kidnapping charges after Merced family of four found dead
A man was jailed Thursday evening on suspicion of kidnapping and murder after four members of a Merced family whose abduction was captured on surveillance video were found dead a day earlier.
A farmworker called around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to report the bodies, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said. Deputies arrived at the scene shortly after, followed by detectives who determined the remains were those of 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri; her mother, Jasleen Kaur, 27; her father, Jasdeep Singh, 36; and her uncle, Amandeep Singh, 39, who were taken at gunpoint Monday from the family business, Unison Trucking, in Merced off South Highway 59.
“Tonight our worst fears have been confirmed,” Warnke said. “We found the four people from the kidnapping and they are in fact deceased. … There’s no words right now to describe the anger I feel and the senselessness of this incident. I said it earlier, there’s a special place in hell for this guy.”
Suspect Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, was arrested Tuesday after he attempted suicide in the nearby town of Atwater.
Warnke said Wednesday night that investigators have spoken with Salgado but declined to provide further details on what the suspect said, citing the ongoing investigation.
Salgado was booked into Merced County Jail on Thursday evening on four counts each of murder and kidnapping, the sheriff’s office said.
The family’s relatives have been notified, Warnke said, adding that deputies and other personnel would be processing the scene overnight.
A motive for the abductions and killings is not yet known, he said.
The sheriff said he hopes the district attorney pursues the death penalty.
An 8-month-old girl was kidnapped Monday from a business in Merced along with her mother, father and uncle, authorities said.
The discovery of the bodies came hours after authorities released surveillance footage that showed the kidnapping of the family of four. Undersheriff Corey Gibson detailed the timeline of the abduction, showing new video footage taken from outside the family’s business.
Singh and his brother Amandeep Singh arrived at the business between 8:30 and 8:40 a.m., the video showed.
Around 9 a.m.Singh seemed to casually interact with the suspect, believed to be Salgado, outside the building. The two walked toward the entrance to the business, with Singh leading the way. The suspect carried a white trash bag, the surveillance footage showed.
“[The suspect] put down the trash bag and you’ll see right there he pulls out a firearm,” Gibson said.
Singh and the suspect entered the building and remained inside for a few minutes, and video then showed Singh and his brother exiting the back door with their hands apparently zip-tied behind their backs as the suspect followed them with the gun in hand.
Frederick Woods, one of three men convicted of kidnapping a school bus in Chowchilla 46 years ago, will be released, according to officials. He was previously denied parole 17 times.
The suspect put Singh and his brother in the back seat of Amandeep’s pickup truck, the video showed. The suspect drove away and returned six minutes later, according to the surveillance footage.
“Same suspect gets out of vehicle and goes back inside the business,” said Gibson.
Less than a minute later, video showed Kaur carrying her baby out the back door, unrestrained, with the suspect following behind.
The investigation at the family’s business that revealed the video began Monday after authorities found Amandeep Singh’s Dodge Ram truck on fire in the town of Winton.
When officers arrived at Singh’s home investigating the car fire, a family member was unable to get in contact with him. When the family was unable to contact Amandeep Singh, as well as Kaur and her husband, they reported them missing to the Sheriff’s Office.
“Please help us all. Come forward, so my family comes home safely,” said Sukhdeep Singh, a family member.
“All of us are trying to look for ways that we can deal with this or help out in any way,” said another family member, who identified himself as Balwinder.
Salgado was convicted in 2005 of armed robbery, which involved false imprisonment, Warnke said. He was paroled in 2015 and has not had “major contact” with the law since, the sheriff said.
Further information about the suspect and the investigation was not available Thursday night.
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