The suspect in the kidnapping and murder of a Central California family was a former employee of the family who had a long-running feud with them that “got pretty nasty,” authorities said Thursday.
Relatives of the deceased family told investigators that Jesús Salgado, 48, had sent angry text messages or emails to the family about a year ago after working with his trucking business, the county sheriff said by Merced Vern Warnke at The Associated Press.
A farm worker reported one person dead Wednesday afternoon, and local authorities found the bodies of 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri; his 27-year-old mother, Jasleen Kaur; his 36-year-old father, Jasdeep Singh; and his 39-year-old uncle, Amandeep Singh, in a remote area near the town of Dos Palos, California, about 30 miles south of Merced, California. The murdered family was between the rows of an almond orchard.
Warnke said he believed the family was killed before relatives reported them missing on Monday.
Warnke would not share the condition of the adults’ remains and said it was unclear how the baby died. He said the child had no visible trauma and an autopsy will be performed.
“Our thoughts are with the family in their time of grief and we ask that everyone respect their privacy,” the sheriff’s office added.
THE NEWS DEVELOPS IN THE AFTERNOON:For an update later tonight, sign up for the evening briefing.
The four victims were kidnapped Monday at gunpoint by Salgado from his business in Merced, authorities said. Salgado was identified as a person of interest on Tuesday after detectives were notified that one of the victim’s ATM cards was used at a bank in Atwater, Calif., a small town 8 miles to the west-northwest of Merced, according to the sheriff’s office.
Salgado was arrested Tuesday afternoon. The sheriff’s office announced Thursday night that Salgado was booked into the Merced County Jail. He was arrested on four counts of murder and four counts of kidnapping.
After trying to kill himself, Salgado was admitted to a hospital in critical condition. He is still receiving medical treatment and being interviewed by investigators, authorities said.
Investigators are also looking for a person of interest who may have acted as Salgado’s accomplice, Warnke said. Detectives also believe Salgado destroyed unspecified evidence in an attempt to cover his tracks.
Officials are still looking for a motive for the kidnapping, Warnke said Wednesday. But Warnke said he believes the motive may have been financial, adding that there is no evidence to suggest the incident may have been a hate crime.
The victims were Punjabi Sikhs, a community in central California that has a significant presence in the trucking business, many of them driving trucks, owning trucking companies or other trucking-related businesses.
After Monday’s kidnapping, a massive search was launched and the public was asked for help. Surveillance footage was also released and authorities narrated the footage, showing how the family was abducted.
Contributor: The Associated Press