California family of four found dead after armed kidnapping, police say

Four members of a California family, including a baby, were found dead two days after authorities said they were kidnapped at gunpoint in an incident that sparked a manhunt.

Law enforcement officials had been searching for 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, mother Jasleen Kaur, 27, father Jasdeep Singh, 36, and the baby’s uncle Amandeep Singh, 39, since they were reported missing on Monday. Surveillance footage taken outside the family’s business in Merced, a city of nearly 90,000 people east of San Jose, showed them being led outside and driven away by a gunman.

“Tonight our worst fears have been confirmed,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said Wednesday at a news conference. “We found the four people from the kidnapping and they are indeed dead.”

Officers were called to an “extremely rural area” around 10 p.m. 5:30 p.m. Wednesday by a farmhand who came across the victims’ bodies while they were at work, Warnke said. Deputies and detectives arrived at the scene and found the bodies of the victims “relatively close together,” he said.

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Authorities at a news conference played CCTV footage showing a gunman entering a building off South Highway 59 that was identified as the family’s trucking business. The man was then seen leaving with the family members, some of whom appeared to have their hands zipped behind their backs, loading them into a vehicle before driving away.

Earlier in the day, authorities said they took a person of interest in the kidnapping into custody. Identified as Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, he attempted to take his own life before being apprehended and was taken to a hospital in critical condition, the sheriff’s office said. At an earlier news conference, county law enforcement said Salgado was convicted of a robbery in 2005 and released on parole in 2015.

Authorities said the motive behind the kidnapping was still unclear Wednesday. Investigators, including crime lab experts, planned to work through the night to locate the crime scene, Warnke said. “Now our focus is on conviction,” he added.

Merced County law enforcement on Oct. 5 detailed the kidnapping of a California family of four, including an 8-month-old. A suspect is in custody. (Video: Reuters)

Family members of the victims were notified of their deaths Wednesday and connected with resources for “spiritual guidance,” Warnke said.

“There are no words right now to describe the anger I feel and the senselessness of this incident,” Warnke said.

Andrea Salcedo contributed to this report.

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