A man arrested in connection with this week’s kidnapping and killings of four California family members – including a baby girl – used to work for the victims’ family business, a sheriff’s spokesperson 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 spokesperson Alexandra Britton said, though 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 captured on surveillance video.
On Wednesday, the bodies of the four were recovered from an orchard in Merced County after a farmworker alerted authorities to the remains.
As Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke announced the family’s bodies had been found Wednesday evening, he said “there’s a special place in hell” for the perpetrator.
“The circumstances around this, when we are able to release everything, should anger the hell out of you,” Warnke said.
Salgado was detained as a suspect in the case on Tuesday after his family told law enforcement he admitted to being involved in the kidnappings, authorities said.
Salgado used to work for the victims’ business, Merced County sheriff’s spokesperson Alexandra Britton told CNN Thursday. She did not provide details, including the position he’d held.
CNN has been unable 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 business’ parking lot, followed by Amandeep Singh arriving nine minutes later.
Shortly before 9 a.m., Jasdeep encounters a man outside the business. The man carries a white trash bag and pulls out what appears to be a firearm, the video shows.
At around 9:11 a.m., the video shows that Jasdeep and Amandeep have their hands tied behind their backs and get into a truck, which leaves shortly after.
Minutes later, the vehicle returns to the parking lot and the man enters the business. The man exits with a gun in hand, leading away Jasleen Kaur as she holds 8-month-old Aroohi.
Investigators first learned the family was missing after a family vehicle was found abandoned and on fire Monday morning, authorities said.
Also Monday, a farmer found two of the victims’ cell phones on a road, authorities said. At one point, the farmer answered one of the phones and spoke with 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 use of a firearm and attempted false imprisonment, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Also in 2007, he was sentenced for possession of a controlled substance, the corrections department said. He was released on parole in 2015 after finishing 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 was acting violently while conscious, Warnke said.
Officials believe Salgado is the main suspect in the case, but the sheriff stressed that others may be involved.
“I fully believe that we will uncover and find out that there was more than just him involved,” Warnke said Wednesday.
Salgado was talking to investigators, Warnke said, but didn’t elaborate on what information he may have shared.
“We got information from the suspect, we are going to keep that close to our chest at this point,” Warnke said.
Salgado has been booked at the Merced County Jail, the sheriff’s office said Thursday night.
Among the questions that remain unanswered is the motive behind the family’s killing.
“We have a whole family wiped out, and for what? We don’t know yet,” Warnke said Wednesday after the bodies were recovered.
Authorities have also not disclosed how the family died, but did reveal 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 an ATM card belonging to one of the victims was used at a bank in Atwater, California, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. Atwater is about nine miles northwest of Merced.
It is unclear whether Salgado is the person who used that card, according to Britton.
“Investigators obtained the surveillance photo of a subject making a bank transaction where the person is similar in appearance to the surveillance photo from the original kidnapping scene,” the sheriff’s office said earlier this week.