The suspect who allegedly kidnapped and killed a Merced, California The family had once worked for the family business and had a long-running feud with them before committing “pure evil,” a sheriff said Thursday.
The bodies of each of the four family members, including an 8-month-old child, were found Wednesday in an almond orchard in a remote area of Dos Palos. The family – whose trucking business was located 30 miles south of Merced – had been missing since Monday morning.
Aroohi Dher, 8 months, was found with no visible signs of trauma and an autopsy will be performed, according to Merced County Sheriff Vernon Warnke. Her parents – Jasleen Kaur, 27, and Jasdeep Singh, 36, were all found dead, along with Aroohi’s uncle, Amandeep Singh, 39.
Authorities are investigating the deaths of the victims and have not discussed the conditions of the adult remains.
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The suspect, Jesus Salgado, 48, was arrested Tuesday after using a victim’s credit card in Atwater. The suspect attempted suicide and remained hospitalized Thursday.
The victims, who were Punjabi Sikhs, owned Unison Trucking Inc. in Merced. Details about Salgado’s employment or the nature of the disputes aren’t known, but Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said the feud “got pretty nasty” in text messages.
Sheriff Warnke said the murder was one of the worst crimes he had seen in his 43-year career in law enforcement. He recommended that prosecutors seek the death penalty.
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“There are certain things you will take to the grave. To me, that was pure evil,” Warnke said.
Salgado has a prior criminal record, having been convicted of first-degree robbery with the use of a firearm in Merced County. He was also convicted of attempted forcible confinement and of attempting to prevent or deter a victim or witness.
After being sentenced to 11 years in state prison, he was released in 2015. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Salgado was released from parole after three years.
Sheriff Warnke also said Salgado’s relatives called authorities and told them he admitted to the kidnapping.
Authorities released surveillance footage of the suspect walking past the family’s property before speaking to one of the men. Moments later, the suspect pulled the two men out of their commercial trailer and in Amandeep Singh’s van.
The suspect then led Jasleen Kaur, who was carrying Aroohi, into the truck. The truck was evacuated shortly before 9:30 a.m. on Monday.
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Hours later, firefighters found Amandeep Singh’s truck on fire in Winton, 10 miles north of Merced. Police attended Singh’s home, where a family member reported their loved ones missing after failing to reach them.
Authorities are looking for someone who may have acted as an accomplice to Salgado as the investigation continues.
The Associated Press and Audrey Conklin of Fox News contributed to this report.