All four bodies of a missing California family were found dead late Wednesday after a masked suspect kidnapped them at gunpoint earlier this week, authorities said.
Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke confirmed the discovery during a news conference Wednesday night, adding: “Our worst fears have been confirmed.”
The family had been missing since Monday and authorities said they were “taken against their will” from a business in California’s Central Valley. A person of interest was in custody Tuesday afternoon, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office announced. The incident launched a massive search and pleas to the public for help.
“There is no words to describe the anger I feel, the senseless of this incident,” Warnke told reporters. “I said it earlier, there’s a special place in hell for this guy, and I mean it.”
Among the family members were 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri; her 27-year-old mother, Jasleen Kaur; her 36-year-old father, Jasdeep Singh; and her 39-year-old uncle, Amandeep Singh, according to the Merced County Sheriff’s Office.
Detectives were notified Tuesday that one of the victim’s ATM cards was used at a bank in Atwater, a small town 8 miles west-northwest of Merced, according to the sheriff’s office. Later that day, the sheriff’s office identified Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, as a person of interest in the investigation.
Charges against Salgado have not been announced. He is in the hospital in critical condition after authorities say he attempted to take his own life.
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The footage released by authorities shows Jasdeep Singh arriving at a business in a brown minivan, followed by Amandeep Singh, who arrived in a black pickup truck. Authorities narrated the surveillance footage during a Wednesday news conference.
The video shows a masked suspect walking south Monday on California State Route 59 toward the business, authorities said. Jasdeep Singh left the building and made contact with the suspect before the two began to walk toward the building again, the sheriff’s office said.
The footage then shows the suspect pulling out a gun as he entered the building. There were no cameras inside the business.
Minutes later, the suspect was seen exiting the building with Jasdeep Singh and Amandeep Singh restrained with zip ties, authorities said. The suspect then put the two in the back seat of a pickup truck and drove away.
Later, the video shows the suspect going back into the business before returning to the truck with Jasleen Kaur and 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, who were both unrestrained. The truck left and headed south on the highway.
Officials are still searching for a motive in the kidnapping, Warnke said Wednesday. But Warnke said he believes the motive may have been financial, adding there is no evidence to suggest the incident may have been a hate crime.
Investigators also believe Salgado may not have acted alone.
“I fully believe there was at least one other person involved but we don’t have any evidence to support that, just the circumstances surrounding this,” Warnke said.
Before he was taken into custody, Salgado attempted to take his own life, the sheriff’s office said. He was sedated at a medical facility and in critical condition as of Wednesday afternoon, Warnke said, adding that detectives hope the investigation will move more quickly when Salgado is awake and alert.
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“Hopefully, we can get some answers,” he said.
Salgado was previously convicted of robbery in 2015, Warnke said. The Merced County Sheriff’s Office is working with the California Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate the incident.