You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Here's what we know about the Merced family kidnapping deaths

KSBW Monterey-Salinas 10/7/2022
singh family kidnapped, killed in central california © Provided by KCRA Sacramento singh family kidnapped, killed in central california

The man suspected of kidnapping and killing a California family in Merced this week was a former employee of the family business who allegedly had a previous dispute with them, authorities confirmed on Thursday.

Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, was booked into the Merced County Jail on four counts of murder and four counts of kidnapping, the Merced County Sheriff's Office said.

Sign up for our Newsletters

His brother Alberto Salgado was arrested Thursday evening and accused of criminal conspiracy, being an accessory and destroying evidence.

Four members of the Sikh family, 8-month-old child Aroohi Dheri along with her 27-year-old mother Jasleen Kaur, her 36-year-old father Jasdeep Singh and her 39-year-old uncle Amandeep Singh were found dead in remote farmland on Wednesday evening days after being abducted by gunpoint at their trucking company.

Jesus Manuel Salgado faces murder, kidnapping charges in connection with kidnapped Merced County family © Merced County Sheriff's Office Jesus Manuel Salgado faces murder, kidnapping charges in connection with kidnapped Merced County family

Surveillance video shows Jasdeep Singh and the suspected kidnapper, 48-year-old Jesus Manuel Salgado, making contact outside the business before he went inside the business and escorted them into his truck, authorities said.

Salgado previously served time for robbery in 2005. Fresno TV station KSEE spoke to a victim in that case, who said that he fired Salgado from his Central Valley trucking company. Salgado then showed up at the man's home with a ski mask and gun and threatened his family before robbing them, KSEE reported.

Here is what else we're learning about the kidnapping and killings.

Video above: Timeline of Merced family kidnapping

When was the family taken?

The Sikh family was taken against their will from their business in the south Merced area of the county on Monday, the Merced County Sheriff's Office said.

The sheriff's office said the investigation began Monday around 11:30 a.m. when Cal Fire responded to reports of a 2020 Dodge Ram truck registered to Amandeep that was on fire in Winton.

Merced police then made contact with a family member of Amandeep Singh at the house where the truck was registered. The person attempted to contact the family but no one responded and they reported the four other family members missing.

The sheriff's office then went to the family's trucking company where they would come to believe the family was kidnapped. Authorities noticed something wasn't quite right and started going through the business's security system.

By early afternoon on Monday, authorities had seen the kidnapping take place on video.

Watch the full surveillance video released by authorities on Wednesday in the video player below.

Surveillance video shows Jasdeep Singh and the suspected kidnapper, 48-year-old Jesus Manuel Salgado, making contact outside the business, authorities said.

Salgado then walks into the business with a gun in his hand.

A short time later, he's seen escorting the two men, Jasdeep and Amandeep, out of the business. Both can be seen with their hands zip-tied behind their backs.

Salgado puts them into the back of the truck and it disappears from video view.

About six minutes later, the truck reappears on video and Salgado goes back into the business. Jasleen Kaur and Aroohi are then escorted out and put into the passenger seat of the truck.

Authorities believe all four family members were in the truck at the same time. But they are not sure what happened between the six minutes before the child and mother were put into the truck.

In a Monday evening video update from the sheriff's office, Sheriff Vernon Warnke said there were signs suggesting the "individuals involved" tried destroying any evidence of a kidnapping.

What happened after the family was taken?

It's unclear where the family was taken after the kidnapping. It's also unclear what led up to their bodies being found at the farm in Dos Palos.

However, the sheriff said he believes they were killed within an hour of their kidnapping on Monday.

"We have absolutely no idea unless the suspect we've got right now tells us exactly what happened," the sheriff told KCRA 3 on Thursday. "We've got video evidence, we do have enough circumstances that we know we've got the right guy but we don't know all the timeline."

The next day, Merced County Sheriff's Office detectives got a tip early in the morning that one of the kidnapped family member's cards was used at an ATM in the city of Atwater.

Hours later, investigators were able to identify that person of interest as 48-year-old Jesus Manuel Salgado, the sheriff's office said. Before law enforcement took any action, the sheriff's office said Salgado tried to kill himself and is in the hospital in critical condition.

Family members of Salgado had also contacted law enforcement on Tuesday saying they knew who did this.

When was the family found?

The family's bodies were found Wednesday evening, just three days after they were kidnapped, in an orchard by someone harvesting the trees.

The sheriff's office received a call around 5:30 p.m. from a nearby farmer of bodies found "relatively close" to each other near Indiana and Hutchins roads near the city of Dos Palos.

The area where they were found is described as extremely rural and remote farmland. Dos Palos is located roughly 27 miles south of Merced.

Sheriff Warnke did not discuss the condition of the adults' bodies but said it was unclear how the baby died. Warnke said the child had no visible trauma and an autopsy would be conducted.

The sheriff's office said in a Wednesday evening video update that investigators have spoken with Salgado, who was hospitalized after his attempt in killing himself, but Warnke is not releasing additional details because his office wants to pursue full conviction of the suspect.

Watch the video update from the sheriff in the Facebook video below.

Did the suspect have any priors?

The sheriff's office on Wednesday said Salgado was convicted of robbery in 2005 and released from prison in 2015. He was discharged from parole three years later.

He also has a conviction for possession of a controlled substance, the department said.

Did the family know their kidnapper?

The sheriff's office confirmed on Thursday that Salgado was a former employee of the Singh family trucking business, Unison Trucking Inc.

Warnke told the Associated Press that the family told investigators that Salgado had sent angry text messages or emails about a year ago to the victims about a year ago.

Other details on the dispute, Salgado's employment and his relationship with the family were not clear.

What was the motivation behind the kidnapping?

Investigators said before the arrest of Salgado's brother that they believe there are likely additional suspects out there.

Warnke believes the motive in the 2005 robbery and this kidnapping may be similar.

"The original case in 2005 was based upon his belief that that company owed him money. I believe it's similar to this one here and it could be even further. Obviously, I believe truly that at the very beginning his intention was to kill these people," Warnke said.

There was nothing stolen from the trucking company, according to the family.

Family told The Associated Press that they had just opened an office in the last few weeks. That is also where the family was taken from.

Loved ones share details about the family

Paramjeet Singh, a friend of the family for the past 15 years, said the family members were kind, hardworking people with strong family ties in both India and Merced County.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “For us, it’s very cruel. It’s an unexpected incident.”

Jasdeep and Amandeep’s cousin Sukhdeep Singh said their family "lost four precious family souls" and that "now we're all shattered."

| Video Below | 'It doesn't make any sense': Family friends offer new details about family killed

Supporting the family

Vigils for the slain family will be held every night starting Thursday through this Sunday, Oct. 9.

The sheriff's office was also asked to clarify that the family is not asking for donations or seeking any assistance at this time. There are no GoFundMe or other donation links set up at this time, but if it changes the sheriff's office said they would be the ones to announce it.

"They greatly appreciate everyone's willingness to help the family, but at this time they ask for privacy so they can grieve and process what has taken place," the sheriff's office said in a Facebook post on Thursday with a photo that said "Fraud Alert."

Family friends say they want Salgado to be thoroughly prosecuted and wanted law enforcement to step up enforcement around businesses in the area, especially those operated by members of the Sikh community.

-KCRA 3's Lee Anne Denyer, Orko Manna and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

READ THE FULL STORY:Here's what we know about the Merced family kidnapping deaths

CHECK OUT KSBW:monterey news, salinas news, santa cruz news, monterey weather, salinas weather, santa cruz weather

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon