A man arrested in connection with this week’s kidnapping and killing of four family members in California — including a baby girl — used to work for the victims’ family business, a sheriff’s spokesman says.
Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, was formally arrested late Thursday on four counts of murder and four counts of kidnapping in the case, Merced County sheriff’s spokeswoman Alexandra Britton said, although Salgado had been detained two days earlier.
Authorities say the family members — 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her parents Jasleen Kaur and Jasdeep Singh, and the child’s uncle, Amandeep Singh — were kidnapped from the family’s trucking business in the central California city of Merced on Monday, and parts of the kidnapping were caught on surveillance video.
On Wednesday, the bodies of the four were recovered from an orchard in Merced County after a farm worker alerted authorities to the remains.
When Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke announced the family’s bodies had been found Wednesday night, he said “there’s a special place in hell” for the killer.
“The circumstances surrounding this, when we’re able to release everything, should infuriate you,” Warnke said.
Investigators only learned the family was missing after a family vehicle was found abandoned and on fire Monday morning, authorities said.
Salgado was held as a suspect in the case Tuesday after his family told police he admitted to being involved in the kidnappings, authorities said.
Salgado used to work for the victims’ business, Merced County sheriff’s spokeswoman Alexandra Britton told CNN Thursday. She did not provide details, including the position he had held.
CNN has not been able to identify an attorney for Salgado, and calls to family members have gone unanswered.
As the investigation continues into the motive behind the killings, here’s what we know about the case.
Surveillance footage released by authorities shows how all four family members were taken against their will from their workplace in Merced on Monday morning.
At 8:30 a.m. Monday, the video shows Jasdeep Singh arriving at the company’s parking lot, followed by Amandeep Singh arriving nine minutes later.
Shortly before 9, Jasdeep encounters a man outside the company. The man was carrying a white trash bag and pulled out what appeared to be a firearm, the video shows.
At around 9:11, the video shows Jasdeep and Amandeep, with their hands tied behind their backs, getting into a truck, which drives away shortly after.
A few minutes later, the vehicle returns to the parking lot and the man enters the store. The man exists with a gun in his hand and takes Jasleen Kaur away as she holds 8-month-old Aroohi.
Later Monday, a farmer found two of the victims’ cellphones on a road, authorities said. At one point, the farmer picked up one of the phones and spoke to a relative of the victims.
Salgado served a lengthy prison sentence for a similar crime back in 2007. He was sentenced to 11 years behind bars for charges including first-degree robbery with a firearm and attempted false imprisonment, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Also in 2007, he 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.
Before police took him in on Tuesday — initially as a person of interest — Salgado attempted suicide and received medical treatment that caused him to be sedated because he acted violently while conscious, Warnke said.
Officials believe Salgado is the prime suspect in the case, but the sheriff stressed that others may be involved.
“I fully believe that we will uncover and find that there was more than just him involved,” Warnke said Wednesday.
Salgado spoke with investigators, Warnke said, but did not elaborate on what information he may have shared.
“We’ve gotten information from the suspect, we’re going to keep it close to our chest at this point,” Warnke said.
Salgado has been booked into the Merced County Jail, the sheriff’s office said Thursday night.
Among the questions that remain unanswered is the motive behind the family’s murder.
“We have an entire family wiped out, and for what? We don’t know yet,” Warnke said Wednesday after the bodies were found.
Authorities also have not disclosed how the family died, but revealed that it appears they were killed where they were found, and the killings happened before the sheriff’s department was notified Monday that the family was missing.
A day after the family was kidnapped, authorities learned that an ATM card belonging to one of the victims was being used at a bank in Atwater, California, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. Atwater is about nine miles northwest of Merced.
It’s unclear whether Salgado is the person who used that card, according to Britton.
“Investigators have obtained the surveillance image of a subject making a bank transaction, with the subject similar in appearance to the surveillance image from the original kidnapping scene,” the sheriff’s office said earlier this week.