A baby girl, her parents, and an uncle were found dead in a Merced County orchard two days after they were kidnapped at gunpoint from their business, law enforcement officials said.
“Our worst fears have been confirmed,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said at a Wednesday night news conference.
Warnke did not release any information about how and when police believe they were killed. He said the victims were close to each other when found by a farm worker in a remote area near Indiana and Hutchins roads.
The grim announcement came after authorities earlier Wednesday released surveillance video of a man kidnapping 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri; her mother Jasleen Kaur, 27; father Jasdeep Singh, 36; and uncle Amandeep Singh, 39, on Monday.
Authorities said they were taken by a convicted robber who tried to kill himself a day after the kidnappings. Jesus Salgado, 48, was in critical condition when taken into custody but has been talking to police, Warnke said.
No motive for the kidnapping has been established, Warnke said.
BREAKING: The Merced County Sheriff says “their worst fears have been confirmed” and deputies have found the bodies of each of the 4 family members, including the 8 month old, who we were kidnapped on Monday. @KSEE24 @CBS47 pic.twitter.com/75p7Mh1eQj
— Katherine Phillips (@KatPhillipsTV) October 6, 2022
‘There’s a Special Place in Hell for This Guy’: Sheriff
“There’s no words right now to describe the anger I feel and the senselessness of this incident,” Warnke said. “I said it earlier: There’s a special place in hell for this guy.”
Investigators, including crime lab technicians from the California Department of Justice, would be processing the crime scene through the night, Warnke said.
The four family members were taken at gunpoint from their business in Merced.
Relatives of Salgado contacted authorities reporting that he had admitted to them he was involved with the kidnapping, Warnke told KFSN-TV on Tuesday. Salgado tried to take his own life before police arrived at a home in nearby Atwater, and he has since been hospitalized.
Efforts to reach Salgado’s family were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Watch: Merced Family Kidnapping Caught on Video
What the Video Revealed
The video released earlier Wednesday showed the suspect first walking by the property before talking to one of the men. Later, it shows him leading the men, who had their hands zip-tied behind their backs, into the back seat of Amandeep Singh’s pickup truck. The suspect then went back to the trailer that served as the business office and led Jasdeep Singh, who was carrying her baby in her arms, out and into the truck before the suspect then drove away.
Family members said nothing was stolen from the trucking company but that their relatives were all wearing jewelry. Warnke had said that after the kidnappings, an ATM card belonging to one of the victims was used in nearby Atwater.
Warnke said the kidnapper made no ransom demands.
Investigators were trying to discover a motive for the slayings, the sheriff said.
“We have a whole family wiped out and for what? We don’t know yet,” he said.
Relatives of the victims had been notified of the deaths, the sheriff said.
“We’re hoping that they can now at least have some kind of closure,” Warnke said, adding: “It’s not the closure we were hoping for; it’s not the closure they were hoping for.”
Salgado’s Criminal Record
Salgado was previously convicted of first-degree robbery with the use of a firearm in Merced County, as well as attempted false imprisonment and an attempt to prevent or dissuade a victim or witness. He was sentenced to 11 years in state prison in that case, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
He was released from prison in 2015 and discharged from parole three years later. He also has a conviction for possession of a controlled substance, the corrections agency said.
Investigators have not found a link between Salgado and the family to show they knew each other before the kidnapping.
“As of right now, we believe it was random,” Deputy Alexandra Britton said. “We don’t have evidence to prove otherwise.”
Family members had told KXTV-TV that the office for Unison Trucking Inc., the family’s business, had only opened about a week earlier.
“My husband is very peaceful and calm person. We don’t have any clue why they kidnapped them,” said Jaspreet Caur, wife of the kidnapped uncle.
The sheriff said detectives believe the kidnapper destroyed unspecified evidence in an attempt to cover his tracks.
Merced County Undersheriff Corey Gibson said a farmer found a phone belonging to one of the victims on a street in Dos Palos, which is about 30 miles southwest of Merced, and answered it when the family called it.