Four members of the family, including an infant, who were was kidnapped on Monday morning from a business in Central California’s Merced County were found dead, authorities said Wednesday night. The victims were discovered in a remote rural area of Merced County.
In a news briefing, Merced County Sheriff Vernon Warnke said the bodies of the four victims were discovered at about 5:30 p.m. local time by a farm worker “in the course of his work duties.”
The victims were found “relatively close together,” Warnke added. He did not say whether investigators had determined their causes of death.
The sheriff emphasized that the victims were found in an “extremely rural rural area, not many people come out here.”
On Monday morning, the victims – a little girl, her parents and uncle, were kidnapped from a Merced County business. They have been identified as 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her mother, 27-year-old Jasleen Kaur, her father, 36-year-old Jasdeep Singh, and her 39-year-old uncle, Amandeep Singh.
On Tuesday, person of interest in the kidnapping was arrested. Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, was taken into custody after using a credit card belonging to one of the victims at an ATM in Atwater, Merced County, the sheriff’s office said.
Salgado attempted to kill himself before being arrested, the sheriff’s office said. He was hospitalized in critical condition.
At a news conference Wednesday morning, before the bodies were discovered, sheriff’s officials released follow-up plans which they said showed the victims being led out of the business by a gunman.
The video shows the man walking out of the building with Jasdeep and Amandeep, who are both bound by zip ties, and placing them in the back of a truck. The truck leaves, but returns six minutes later. The suspect goes back inside and leaves soon after with Kaur and her daughter Aroohi Dheri.
There has been no word yet on a motive for the kidnappings or a possible relationship between Salgado and the victims. Warnke said Salgado was convicted of robbery in 2005. Salgado was paroled in 2015 and has had no significant contact with law enforcement since then, Warnke said.
Warnke said that as of Wednesday morning, Salgado had not been able to contact investigators. He has not yet been charged in the case.
The investigation began when a truck registered to Amandeep was found burning late Monday morning on a rural road in Winton, a community a few miles north of the city of Merced, the sheriff’s office said.
California Highway Patrol officers attempted to contact Amandeep and when they were unable to do so, they reached a family member who was also unable to contact Amandeep. Eventually, the family member reported all four missing. By early Monday afternoon, sheriff’s investigators had determined that the four had been abducted from the operation.
— Victoria Albert contributed to this report.