The suspect arrested in the cold-blooded kidnapping and murder of an eight-month-old baby, her parents, and her uncle had a yearlong feud with the victims, a sheriff said Thursday.
A farm worker found the bodies of infant Aroohi Dheri, her mother Jasleen Kaur, 27, father Jasdeep Singh, 36, and uncle Amadeep Singh, 39, in an almond orchard in a remote region of the San Joaquin Valley in California late Wednesday. They were kidnapped at gunpoint from their trucking business in Merced on Monday morning.
Convicted felon Jesus Salgado, 48, tried to kill himself the day after the relatives were abducted, authorities said. He was released from the hospital Thursday night and booked into county jail, according to the Merced County Sheriff’s Office.
In an interview with the Associated Press Thursday, sheriff Van Warnke said Salgado had worked for the victims’ business, identified in public records as Unison Trucking Inc. He added that Salgado had entered into a feud with the family which dated back a year, and that the dispute “got pretty nasty” in emails and text messages. The exact nature of the disagreement or Salgado’s employment is not yet known.
Warnke said he believed the family were most likely dead within an hour of their kidnapping. He also described the crime as one of the worst he’d seen in 43 years of law enforcement and hoped prosecutors would seek the death penalty.
“There’s some things you’ll take to the grave,” he said. “This to me was pure evil.”
The sheriff would not disclose the condition of the adults’ bodies when they were found in the orchard but said the baby had no visible trauma. An autopsy will be conducted to establish her cause of death. Warnke also called for a person of interest believed to be an accomplice in the crime to turn himself in.
Salgado’s relatives contacted authorities to say he’d admitted to being involved in the kidnapping, Warnke told KFSN-TV on Tuesday. His attempted suicide came before authorities arrived at a home in Atwater—about nine miles north of Merced—where an ATM card belonging to one of the victims was used after the kidnapping.
The detained ex-convict’s rap sheet includes convictions for robbery, attempted false imprisonment, and dissuading a witness in a 2005 home invasion. A victim from that previous night of terror—which landed Salgado behind bars for eight years—told CBS47 they too owned a trucking company and had employed him for two years before firing him.
He turned up wearing a ski mask and wielding a gun at the house of his former boss in December 2005. He tied up the man, his wife, and their 16-year-old daughter with duct tape as he stole their valuables, threatening to kill them if they called the cops.
On Monday, CCTV footage showed the suspect leading the Singh brothers with their hands zip-tied behind their backs into the backseat of Amandeep Singh’s pickup truck. The suspect then drove the truck away before returning a few minutes later. Jasleen Kaur, carrying her baby in her arms, was then seen being led into the truck and driven away shortly before 9:30 a.m.