Man Suspected of Kidnapping California Family Has History of Theft: Police

Police in central California searching for a kidnapped family of four say the suspect has a prior robbery conviction and was likely motivated by financial gain.

Officials with the Merced County Sheriff’s Office played surveillance video during a Wednesday press conference of suspect Jesus Manuel Salgado allegedly kidnapping the family, including an 8-month-old, at gunpoint from their business. Merced County Sheriff Vernon Warnke told reporters that law enforcement agencies are “leaving no stone unturned” to locate the family and are hoping Salgado will cooperate.

Police on Monday began their search for 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her parents Jasleen Kaur, 27, and Jasdeep Singh, 36, as well as her uncle Amandeep Singh, 39. Firefighters were called to extinguish the fire in a 2020 Dodge Ram truck in Winton, a rural part of Merced County, that was later determined to belong to Amandeep Singh, according to Fox affiliate KMPH.

Train Platform in Merced
Sunrise is seen from a train platform in Merced, California, in this undated file photo. Authorities in Merced County are looking for a family of four that was kidnapped earlier in the week.
diegograndi/Getty Images

Warnke said Salgado attempted suicide before being taken into custody on Tuesday. Salgado, 48, is currently sedated in a medical facility and police have been unable to question him, according to Warnke.

While authorities don’t currently have a motive for the kidnapping, Warnke added that Salgado was convicted of robbery in 2005.

“It’s almost always financial,” said Warnke.

The Merced Police Department said in a Facebook post Tuesday that investigators learned one of the victim’s ATM cards was used at a bank in the nearby town of Atwater. Investigators obtained a surveillance photo of a man using the card who resembled the suspect in the kidnapping video, police said. Salgado was identified as a “person of interest” later that day.

Undersheriff Corey Gibson said during the press conference that he had put all of his detectives on the case as well as other resources. The FBI and the California Department of Justice have also gotten involved, he said.

A relative of the kidnapped family who identified himself as Balwinder described the pain of not knowing where they were and pleaded for the public to come forward with any additional information, according to Reuters.

“We are devastated; we are shocked; we are dying every moment not finding any clues,” he said, according to Reuters.

Warnke said he believes Salgado didn’t act alone, although he does not currently have any evidence to support the possibility of a second suspect. He added that “everything is on the table” as police remain focused on finding the family.

“But right now we’ve got to get this person [Salgado] into a position where we can start asking questions, hopefully get some answers,” he said.

Newsweek reached out to the Merced County Sheriff’s Office for comment.

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