The California community of Merced is mourning the loss of 4 family members who were kidnapped and killed. 2 men have been arrested, the police say



CNN

A Central California community is grappling with the grief of losing an 8-month-old baby, her parents and her uncle, who were kidnapped and killed earlier this week allegedly by a former employee of their family-owned business.

Residents attended vigils held this week in downtown Merced for baby Aroohi Dheri, parents Jasleen Kaur and Jasdeep Singh and the child’s uncle, Amandeep Singh.

Relatives of the victims expressed their anguish and heartache at a vigil held Thursday night in Merced’s Bob Hart Square, CNN affiliate KCRA reported.

“Our family just lost four precious family members,” cousin Sukhdeep Singh said at the vigil. “Now we’re all heartbroken.”

Many people lit candles to honor the family and mourn their deaths, which authorities believe occurred Monday after they were kidnapped at gunpoint from their trucking business in Merced.

After days of searching, the family’s bodies were recovered Wednesday night from an orchard in Merced County after a farmer reported the remains to police.

Police say they have arrested two brothers in connection with the kidnappings and murders.

Jesus Manuel Salgado, a former employee of the family’s trucking business, was arrested on four counts of murder and four counts of kidnapping in the case, Merced County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Alexandra Britton said.

Alberto Salgado, his brother, was arrested on preliminary charges of criminal conspiracy, accessory after the fact and destruction of evidence in connection with the case, Britton told CNN on Friday.

When Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke announced the recovery of the family’s bodies, he said “there’s a special place in hell” for the perpetrator.

“The circumstances surrounding this, when we’re able to release everything, should infuriate you,” Warnke said.

Both Salgado brothers have been booked into the Merced County Jail, the sheriff’s office said.

As of Friday, authorities have not revealed how the family was killed and have not released a confirmed motive. CNN was not immediately able to identify the Salgado brothers’ attorneys, and calls to family members have gone unanswered.

The armed abduction, which was captured on the company’s surveillance cameras, has shaken the community of nearly 90,000 people. Support has been shown for relatives and friends grieving the sudden loss of four members of the Sikh community who emigrated to the United States from India in search of the American dream.

“They’re going to need our support, our help, and we’re asking the community to stay with us, help us, help them,” family friend Ranjeet Singh said at the vigil, according to KCRA.

The vigils, which began on Thursday, will continue through the weekend to allow the community to grieve openly together.

“We cannot express our grief enough for the Singh family and friends who have lost loved ones. No family should have to endure such a terrible tragedy.” the city said in a statement posted online. “Merced stands with the Sikh community.”

While the victims’ families mourn the loss of their loved ones, they also remember them as hardworking people who wanted to provide for their families.

Now they are asking those who can to contribute to a verified GoFundMe account to help the family get through their loss.

“As immigrants to America, they worked tirelessly for 18 years to achieve safety, security and community for themselves and their families,” the GoFundMe page states. “Aman and Jasdeep were the primary breadwinners of the family, supporting their elderly parents and living under one roof.”

Amandeep Singh is survived by two children – aged 9 and 6 – with his wife, Jaspreet Kaur.

“Aman was the rock of his family, an amazing father who always made time to cuddle his son Ekam, read with his daughter Seerat, and appreciate their many art projects and other accomplishments,” the GoFundMe page reads.

A family member told CNN that Jasdeep and Amandeep Singh emigrated to the United States from Punjab, India, in 2002 with their parents. As the family struggled to find work, they slept in their car at one point, the relative said.

“They worked very, very hard to get to the point they got to. They worked warehouse jobs, hourly jobs,” the family member told CNN.

Earlier this year, the family grew when Jasleen and Jasdeep became parents to Aroohi. Now the grief is setting in.

“There are different cycles of grief – it’s the shock; it sinks in. We go into the memories and if you see something that reminds you of something, you burst into tears. If you see another person or other crying in the hall, you burst into tears,” said the family member.

Monserrat Herrera, right, 8, Yubicela Sanchez, center, and Christopher Herrera, left, 17, attend a candlelight vigil for the Singh family at Bob Hart Square in Merced, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022.

Sheriff Warnke was visibly emotional and frustrated when he announced the family’s death Wednesday night.

“There are no words to describe the anger I feel and the senselessness of this incident,” Warnke said. “Terribly, terribly senseless what happened here.”

At the time, he also urged prosecutors to seek the death penalty against the suspect, noting that officials have “a lot of circumstantial evidence and direct evidence.”

Authorities believe the family was killed when they were found at an orchard in Merced County not far from where they were kidnapped at their trucking business.

The sheriff’s office did not immediately release details of the charges against Alberto Salgado, other than the charges on which he was being held.

Jesus Salgado, the primary suspect in the family’s case, was sentenced in 2007 to 11 years in prison on charges including first-degree robbery with a firearm and attempted false imprisonment, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Also in 2007, Jesus Salgado was convicted of possession of a controlled substance, the Department of Corrections said. He was released on parole in 2015 after completing his sentence and completed parole in 2018, according to the department.

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