California family: The bodies of 4 kidnapped people are found in a rural area, a day after the arrest of a suspect



CNN

Four kidnapped California family members – including a baby girl – were found dead in an agricultural area on Wednesday, authorities said, two days after they were abducted from their business in a case where investigators arrested a suspect but did not have not announced a reason.

The bodies of 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her parents Jasleen Kaur and Jasdeep Singh, and her uncle Amandeep Singh were found by authorities on Wednesday evening after a farmhand alerted them to remains in a County orchard. Merced, in central California, authorities said.

The discovery was announced by a visibly emotional sheriff who said he hoped a district attorney would seek the death penalty for the suspect, who was arrested on Tuesday. CNN is not naming the suspect because no charges were filed against him as of Wednesday night.

“There’s a special place in hell for this guy,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said at a news conference after the bodies were recovered.

“It’s completely and utterly insane. An entire family (was) wiped out, and we still don’t know why,” Warnke said.

The family was kidnapped at gunpoint – a kidnapping recorded on CCTV — from their trucking business Monday morning in Merced, a town between Modesto and Fresno in central California, authorities said. Investigators learned they were missing after a family vehicle was found abandoned and on fire this morningauthorities said.

Police arrested a 48-year-old suspect on Tuesday after his family told law enforcement he admitted to involvement in the kidnapping, Merced County Sheriff’s Deputy Alexandra Britton said.

“The circumstances around this, when we’re able to release everything, should make you angry,” Warnke said.

The suspect attempted suicide shortly before being taken into custody and received medical attention, Warnke said.

Warnke did not say how the family was killed, adding that it appears they were killed before the sheriff’s department was notified Monday that the family was missing.

The person in custody is the prime suspect in the murders, although investigators believe other people may have been involved, according to Warnke, who did not specify the extent of that involvement.

“I fully believe we will find out and find out that it wasn’t just him involved,” Warnke said.

The suspect has provided information to investigators and officials are working with him to identify a motive, Warnke said.

It appears the relatives were killed where they were found, Warnke said.

Earlier Wednesday, authorities released surveillance footage of the abduction from the family’s Merced trucking company on Monday morning.

The video shows Jasdeep Singh arriving in the company car park at 8.30am, followed by Amandeep Singh arriving nine minutes later.

Shortly before 9 a.m., Jasdeep encounters a man outside the business. The man was carrying a trash bag and pulled out what appeared to be a gun, the video shows.

Minutes later, Jasdeep and Amandeep are seen with their hands tied behind their backs as they get into a truck. Shortly after, the truck leaves and returns six minutes later.

Upon returning, the suspect enters the business and exits with a gun drawn as Jasleen Kaur holds 8-month-old Aroohi and walks past the suspect to the truck.

Later Monday, a farmer found two of the victims’ cellphones on a road, authorities said. At one point, the farmer answered the phone and spoke with a relative of the victims.

Before the bodies were found on Wednesday evening, a family member had urged people to provide information about the case.

“They are a peaceful family who run a small business in the Merced area,” Balvinder, a family member, pleaded. “It’s something no one is ready to face…we hope and pray every moment.”

Jasleen Kaur, left, and Jasdeep Singh, center, hold 8-month-old Aroohi.  Amandeep Singh is seen on the right.  Their family was found dead Wednesday in Merced County, California.

On Tuesday morning, investigators learned that an ATM card belonging to one of the victims had been used at a bank in Atwater, Calif., about 9 miles northwest of Merced, the sheriff’s office said. .

It is unclear if the 48-year-old man in police custody was the person who used that card, Britton said.

After that transaction, investigators were able to identify the 48-year-old as a person of interest in the case, officials said.

The suspect was convicted in 2005 in a case of armed robbery and false imprisonment and was paroled in 2015, Warnke said. In this previous case, the man acted alone and knew the victims, according to Warnke.

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