MERCED, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A suspect in the kidnapping and deaths of four family members had previously worked for the family, according to the Merced County Sheriff’s Office.
On Wednesday night, investigators said they found 27-year-old Jasleen Kaur, 36-year-old Jasdeep Singh, 39-year-old Amandeep Singh, and eight-month-old Aroohi Dheri dead in an orchard near Dos Palos. All four of the victims had been taken against their will from the family’s trucking business near Highway 59 on Monday morning.
On Thursday afternoon, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke confirmed that the suspect, identified as 48-year-old Jesus Manuel Salgado, had a previous working relationship with the family.
Sheriff Warnke said he was unsure if Salgado had worked at the trucking company where the kidnapping took place, or if he worked for another business owned by the Singh family.
The motive for the kidnapping has not yet been released, but Sheriff Warnke said he believes it is similar to a previous home invasion Salgado had carried out.
In 2005, Salgado was arrested for a home invasion that he had committed on his former boss.
Sheriff Warnke said Salgado had committed the crime because he believed his former boss owed him money.
Officials said Salgado had held his former boss’s family hostage in their home as he robbed them. Salgado served eight years in prison for the home invasion before he was released on parole in 2015.
“Sticking a gun in someone’s face in their house and robbing them with the threat of death? He doesn’t need to be on the streets,” Sheriff Warnke said about Salgado.
In the recent kidnapping case, Sheriff Warnke said he believes that Salgado planned on killing the family from the beginning.
Investigators said they are still working to figure out the family’s cause of death, but did specify that no direct signs of injuries were found on eight-month-old Aroohi Dheri.
Sheriff Warnke added he believes that the four family members were dead before authorities knew they were missing.
“When it is finally discovered, if you don’t agree with me about the evilness of this, there’s something wrong,” Sheriff Warnke said about the family members’ deaths.
Sheriff Warnke said he will be pushing for the death penalty to try to get justice for the family.
“They’re going to have lifelong suffering from this. The father of the two men flew in from India this morning. He’s here,” said Sheriff Warnke. “They want justice. He lost two sons.”
Officials said Salgado is still recovering in the hospital after he tried to take his own life on Tuesday. He is expected to make a full recovery.
Salgado will be booked into the Merced County Jail as soon as he is medically cleared.