The four bodies of a missing California family were found dead Wednesday night after a masked suspect abducted them at gunpoint earlier this week, authorities said.
Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke confirmed the find at a Wednesday night press conference, adding, “Our worst fears have been confirmed.”
The family had been missing since Monday and authorities said they were “snatched against their will” from a business in California’s Central Valley. A person of interest was in custody Tuesday afternoon, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office announced. The incident sparked a massive search and calls for help from the public.
“There are no words to describe the anger I feel, the senselessness of this incident,” Warnke told reporters. “I said it earlier, there’s a special place in hell for this guy, and I mean it.”
Among the family members were Aroohi Dheri, 8 months; his 27-year-old mother, Jasleen Kaur; her 36-year-old father, Jasdeep Singh; and his 39-year-old uncle, Amandeep Singh, according to the Merced County Sheriff’s Office.
Detectives were notified on Tuesday that one of the victim’s ATM cards had been used at a bank in Atwater, a small town eight miles west-northwest of Merced, according to the sheriff’s office. Later that day, the sheriff’s office identified Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, as a person of interest in the investigation.
Charges against Salgado have not been announced. He is currently hospitalized in critical condition after authorities said he attempted suicide.
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Footage released by authorities shows Jasdeep Singh arriving at a business in a brown van, followed by Amandeep Singh, who arrived in a black van. Authorities recounted the surveillance footage at a news conference on Wednesday.
Video shows a masked suspect walking south Monday on California State Route 59 towards the business, authorities said. Jasdeep Singh left the building and made contact with the suspect before the two resumed walking toward the building, the sheriff’s office said.
Footage then shows the suspect pulling out a gun as he entered the building. There were no cameras inside the company.
Minutes later, the suspect was seen exiting the building with Jasdeep Singh and Amandeep Singh restrained by zip ties, authorities said. The suspect then placed the two in the back seat of a van and drove off.
Video later shows the suspect returning to the business before returning to the truck with Jasleen Kaur and 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, who were not restrained. The truck left and headed south on the highway.
Officials are still looking for a motive in the kidnapping, Warnke said Wednesday. But Warnke said he believed the motive may have been financial, adding there was no evidence to suggest the incident could have been a hate crime.
Investigators also believe Salgado may not have acted alone.
“I fully believe there was at least one other person involved, but we have no supporting evidence, just the circumstances surrounding it,” Warnke said.
Before being taken into custody, Salgado attempted suicide, the sheriff’s office said. He was sedated at a medical facility and in critical condition Wednesday afternoon, Warnke said, adding that detectives hope the investigation will move forward more quickly when Salgado is awake and alert.
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“Hopefully we can get some answers,” he said.
Salgado had previously been convicted of theft in 2015, Warnke said. The Merced County Sheriff’s Office is working with the California Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate the incident.
Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.