Merced kidnapping update: 4 family members, including baby, found dead, sheriff says

MERCED, Calif. (KABC) — A baby girl, her parents and uncle were found dead in an orchard after they were kidnapped at gunpoint from their business in central California’s Merced County, the sheriff announced Wednesday evening.

“Our worst fears have been confirmed,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said. “We found the four people from the kidnapping and they are indeed dead.”

“There are no words right now to describe the anger I feel and the senselessness of this incident,” he added. “I said it earlier, there’s a special place in hell for this guy.”

Warnke did not release any information about how or when police believe they were killed. He said the victims were close to each other when they were found by a farm worker in a remote area.

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 he was arrested but has spoken with police, Warnke said.

The sheriff said while there is no evidence at this time to suggest another person was involved, “I still think when we’re done here we’ll be able to link at least one other person. “

Earlier Wednesday, authorities showed surveillance video of a man kidnapping the child, Aroohi Dheri; the child’s mother, Jasleen Kaur, 27; father Jasdeep Singh, 36; and uncle Amandeep Singh, 39, from their business.

The family was kidnapped at gunpoint from a business in Merced on Monday, authorities said.

The video shows two of the family members – Jasdeep and Amandeep Singh – coming out of the shop’s back door with their hands tied together.

Moments later, the video shows the kidnapper leading Kaur and her 8-month-old baby, Aroohi Dheri, out of the building and into a truck.

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Deputies later learned one of the victim’s ATM cards was used at a bank in Atwater, about 9 miles north of Merced. Authorities added that a farmer answered the victim’s phone after it was found in the middle of the street.

A motive for the kidnapping has not been determined, but it is believed to be financial in nature.

Earlier Wednesday, relatives of the kidnapped family spoke to the local community.

“It is something that no one is prepared to deal with. We are just hoping and praying every moment,” said a family member who identified himself as Balwinder.

“We are devastated. We are shocked. We are dying any minute.”

The sheriff’s office said the suspect’s own family contacted authorities and reported that Salgado had admitted to them that he was involved in the kidnapping.

Salgado was previously convicted of first-degree robbery with a firearm in Merced County, as well as attempted false imprisonment and attempting to hinder or deter 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 released on parole three years later. He has also been convicted of possession of a controlled substance, according to the criminal police.

There is no evidence at this time to indicate that Salgado knew the family prior to the kidnapping.

Late Wednesday, the Merced County Sheriff said Salgado was awake and talking to authorities.

The sheriff emphasized that this is still an active investigation.

“What we’re dealing with tonight is bad. And we’re going to be out here all night dealing with it,” Warnke said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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