The search for a family of four kidnapped in California continues Wednesday after authorities took a person of interest into custody and revealed that restraints were used and surveillance video showed the victims being put in a truck.
The kidnapping of 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her parents Jasleen Kaur and Jasdeep Singh and the child’s uncle Amandeep Singh occurred on Monday in Merced, California.
According to the Merced County Sheriff’s Office, the investigation began Monday at 11:39 a.m., when the California Highway Patrol responded to a 2020 Dodge Ram that was on fire and asked the Merced Police Department to help track down the vehicle’s owner.
Roughly an hour later, at 12:35 p.m., Merced police officers arrived at the truck owner’s address and met with a family member there. Officers tried to contact the couple and the child’s uncle, but they were not able to reach them.
Later Monday, at 1:04 p.m., officers with the Merced County Sheriff’s Office responded to a business on South Highway 59. “During the primary investigation, Detectives determined that the individuals were kidnapped,” the sheriff’s office stated Tuesday.
The kidnapping involved a gun and restraints, according to Deputy Alexandra Britton, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.
A suspect was seen on surveillance video at a business putting two men into a truck, followed by a woman and a baby, Britton said.
In an initial statement about the case Monday, the sheriff’s office said it believed the family was taken “against their will” from a business in the 800 block of South Highway 59 in Merced, which sits between Modesto and Fresno in central California.
“We have no motivation behind it. We just know they are gone,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said in a video message posted on Facebook.
Warnke also said investigators collected evidence that indicates “the individuals involved in this destroyed evidence in an attempt to cover up their tracks.”
On Tuesday, authorities took a 48-year-old man into custody as a person of interest in the case.
Britton said the man’s family had contacted law enforcement and told them the man admitted being involved in the kidnapping. Law enforcement made contact with the man after the family’s call.
As they investigate, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office continues to ask the public to contact its office at 209-385-7547 to share any information they may have regarding the case. The FBI and the California justice department are also investigating.
“Investigators continue to follow up on all leads and are working diligently to find the family,” the sheriff’s office said Tuesday.
Investigators learned Tuesday morning that 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. Britton said it is unclear whether the 48-year-old in custody is the person who used that card.
After that transaction, investigators were able to identify the 48-year-old man as a person of interest in the case and later took him into custody, officials said.
The man tried to take his life before law enforcement involvement, and he was receiving medical treatment and in critical condition Tuesday, according to the sheriff’s office.
Authorities were working to confirm the man in custody is the same suspect they released photos of Monday, Alexandra Britton, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, told CNN.
“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.
On Monday, officials described the suspect as a man with a shaved head and was last seen wearing a hooded sweatshirt. He was considered armed and dangerous, officials said.