The desperate search for a kidnapped Indian family in California took a tragic turn on Wednesday.
The bodies of eight-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her mother Jasleen Kaur, 27, father Jasdeep Singh, 36, and uncle Amandeep Singh, 39, were found by a farmer on Wednesday evening, authorities said. The family was kidnapped on Monday from their recently opened trucking business in Merced, a city about 125 miles southeast of San Francisco.
Authorities had been tipped off by 48-year-old Jesus Salgado’s family that he was likely involved in the kidnapping. Before he was taken into custody, Salgado attempted to take his own life, the Merced County Sheriff’s office said. He was transported to a hospital on Tuesday and remains under police custody.
Sheriff Vern Warnke held a press conference to announce the gruesome discovery. He did not disclose how and when the victims were believed to have been killed.
“Our worst fears have been confirmed,” Mr Warnkle said. “There’s no words right now to describe the anger I feel and the senselessness of this incident. I said it earlier: There’s a special place in hell for this guy.”
Authorities believe Salgado, who has a previous conviction for false imprisonment and robbery, had financial motivations behind the kidnapping. It has not been established whether he knew the family.
Here’s everything we know about the case so far:
Kidnapping captured on surveillance
Earlier on Wednesday, authorities released footage of the moment the family of four were kidnapped at gunpoint from their trucking business.
The footage released by the sheriff’s office shows Jasdeep Singh arrive at the business on the 800 Block of South Highway 59 in Merced County at 8.30am on Monday. Jasdeep is seen coming into contact with the suspect, and they walk toward the building.
A masked suspect, later identified as convicted robber Jesus Salgado, then pulls out a firearm and enters the business. He leads Jasdeep and his brother, Amandeep, with their hands zip-tied behind their backs to a truck.
The vehicle departs for a few minutes before returning, when Jasdeep’s wife Jasleen and their eight-month-old child, are led from the building into the truck.
Authorities find Amandeep Singh’s burned truck
After the kidnapping on Monday, the fire department discovered Amandeep Singh’s truck on fire, in what police believe was an attempt by the suspect to destroy unspecified evidence, NPR reported.
Firefighters were sent to Amandeep’s home and were told by a family member that the victims could not be reached.
One of the victim’s phones was answered by a farmer in the neighbouring town of Dos Palos, where it had been left. The family immediately reported their loved ones missing.
The victims had just opened a trucking company
Amandeep Singh, Jasdeep Singh and Jasleen Kaur had opened their new business, Unison Trucking Inc, mere days before they were killed, according to family members who spoke with local news station KXTV-TV.
“They have a trucking company. It’s called Unison Trucking, and they made a new truckyard with an office and they barely started this Monday. Yesterday, when they started working, it was only six days they started business at this place,” Deep Singh told the station.
Amandeep Singh’s wife, Jaspreet Caur, also told the station that she didn’t know why the family had been targeted.
“My husband is very peaceful and calm person. We don’t have any clue why they kidnapped them,” Ms Caur said.
Loved ones of the victims said that nothing was stolen from the trucking company but that their loved ones were wearing jewellery. They told authorities they hadn’t received ransom notes from the kidnapper.
Sheriff Vern Warnke also said on Wednesday that an ATM card belonging to one of the victims was used in Atwater, where Salgado is believed to live.
Relatives of the suspect tipped police
Salgado’s family contacted the sheriff’s office after he allegedly admitted to them that he was involved in the shooting, sheriff Warnke told KFSN-TV
Before police could take him into custody, Salgado reportedly tied to take his own life.
He was hospitalized in critical condition on Tuesday, but has seemingly improved since then. Authorities have not yet established a motive for the kidnapping but said Salgado is talking to them.
“We have a whole family wiped out and for what? We don’t know yet,” Mr Warnke said.
Salgado was convicted of first-degree robbery with the use of a firearm in Merced County in the past. He served 11 years and was released in 2015 and placed on parole, the sheriff said during a press conference.
Investigators have not found a link between Salgado and the victims.
“As of right now, we believe it was random,” a deputy said. “We don’t have evidence to prove otherwise.”
Bodies were found ‘close to each other’
The victims’ remains were discovered around 5.30pm on Wednesday by a farm worker in a remote area.
“There’s no words right now to describe the anger I feel and the senselessness of this incident,” the sheriff said. “I said it earlier: There’s a special place in hell for this guy.”
In the northern Indian state of Punjab, Kaur’s sister-in-law Amandeep Kaur told The Indian Express that they cannot bear this loss.
Kaur’s mother Gurmeet Kaur and her farmer father Gurnam Singh were not in a state to speak, the outlet reported.
“We are devastated, we are shocked, we are dying every moment,” an unnamed relative said at an earlier news conference Wednesday.
The California Department of Justice and investigators from other agencies processed the scene overnight, NPR reported.