Crime and Courts

Kidnapped California Family of 4 Found Dead in Remote Orchard

The sheriff believes the motive was money, saying the suspect took the victims' ATM cards before he allegedly killed them

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Four bodies of a Sikh family kidnapped at gunpoint in Central California were found in a remote orchard Wednesday, the Merced County Sheriff's Office said.

At about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sheriff Vern Warnke said he received a call that the bodies were discovered by a farmworker. The victims were identified as 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri; her mother Jasleen Kaur, 27; father Jasdeep Singh, 36; and uncle Amandeep Singh, 39.

Warnke was emotional in announcing the deaths, calling the crime "totally senseless."

"There’s just no words right now to describe the anger I feel and the senselessness of this incident," Warnke said. "I said it earlier, there’s a special place in hell for this guy. And I mean it."

Detectives identified the suspect as 48-year-old Jesus Salgado. They say Salgado kidnapped the family from their trucking business in Merced. He was in a hospital Wednesday after he tried taking his own life before deputies found him, sheriff's officials said.

Warnke told KCRA on Thursday he believes the motive was money. Salgado took the victims' ATM cards before he allegedly killed them.

The bodies were found in a rural orchard in Dos Palos, about 30 minutes south of where the family was kidnapped. The sheriff didn’t reveal how they died, but investigators spent most of the night processing the scene.

The sheriff’s office released surveillance video earlier Wednesday, showing the moments the family was taken against their will Monday.

Salgado was a parolee, having been sentenced to 11 years for robbery and attempted false imprisonment, the sheriff's office said. Salgado is talking to investigators from his his hospital bed, Warnke said.

Investigators believe at least one other person was involved in the kidnapping and killings, but they are still collecting evidence. They have not found a link between Salgado and the family to show they knew each other before the kidnapping.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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