Merced kidnapping update: 4 family members, including baby, found dead, sheriff says

MERCED, Calif. — A baby girl, her parents and her uncle were found dead in an orchard after being abducted at gunpoint from their business in Merced County, central California, the sheriff announced Wednesday night.

“Our worst fears have been confirmed,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said. “We have found the four people from the abduction and they are in fact deceased.”

“There are no words at this time to describe the anger I feel and the senselessness of this incident,” he added. “I said earlier, there’s a special place in hell for this guy.”

Warnke did not release any information about how and when police believe they were killed. He said the victims were close together when they were found by a farm worker in a remote area.

Authorities said they were taken by a convicted thief who attempted suicide a day after the abductions. Jesus Salgado, 48, was in critical condition when he was arrested but spoke to police, Warnke said.

The sheriff said that although there is no evidence at this time that another person was involved, “I still think we’re done here, we can link at least one other person.”

Earlier Wednesday, authorities showed surveillance video of a man abducting baby Aroohi Dheri; the child’s mother, Jasleen Kaur, 27; father Jasdeep Singh, 36; and uncle Amandeep Singh, 39, from their business.

The family was abducted at gunpoint Monday from a business in Merced, authorities said.

The video shows two of the family members – Jasdeep and Amandeep Singh – coming out of the back door of the business with their hands tied together.

Moments later, the video shows the kidnapper driving Kaur and her 8-month-old baby, Aroohi Dheri, out of the building in a truck.

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Deputies later learned that one of the victim’s ATM cards had been used at a bank in Atwater, about 9 miles north of Merced. Authorities said a farmer answered the victim’s phone after he was found in the middle of the street.

The motive for the kidnapping has not been determined, but is believed to be financial in nature.

Earlier Wednesday, relatives of the kidnapped family spoke with the community.

“This is something no one is prepared for. We are hoping and praying every moment,” said a family member who identified himself as Balwinder.

“We are devastated. We are shocked. We are dying every moment.”

The sheriff’s office said the suspect’s own family contacted authorities to report that Salgado had admitted to them that he was involved in the kidnapping.

Salgado has previously been convicted of first-degree robbery with the use of a firearm in Merced County, as well as attempted wrongful imprisonment and attempting to restrain or deter a victim or witness. He was sentenced to 11 years in state prison in that case, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

He was released from prison in 2015 and released on parole three years later. He was also convicted of possession of a controlled substance, the prison agency said.

There is currently no evidence that Salgado knew the family prior to the abduction.

Late Wednesday, the Merced County Sheriff said Salgado was awake and speaking with authorities.

The sheriff stressed that it was still an active investigation.

“What we’re going to face tonight is bad. And we’re going to be here all night to deal with it,” Warnke said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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