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California Kidnapping Suspect Arrested, Police Scramble To Find Missing Four Family Members

Jesus Salgado, who is hospitalized following an alleged suicide attempt, has been arrested for the kidnapping of four members of a California family: Jasleen Kaur, Jasdeep Singh, Amandeep Singh and Aroohi Dheri.

By Dorian Geiger
Missing California Family Found Dead After Kidnapping

Detectives are frantically trying to locate a missing California family who were abducted at gunpoint in broad daylight following the arrest of the suspected kidnapper this week.

Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, was identified as the suspect in Monday’s abduction of Jasleen Kaur, 27, her husband, Jasdeep Singh, 36, their eight-month old child, Aroohi Dheri, and Singh’s brother, Amandeep Singh, 39, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office announced.  

Kaur, the Singh brothers and Dheri remain missing.

At a press conference on Wednesday morning, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office said Salgado is hospitalized in critical condition after attempting to kill himself prior to being taken into custody. He’s currently sedated and hasn’t yet been questioned by investigators.

“We are currently with the suspect now at the medical treatment facility, waiting for the doctors to get him to a point where he can cooperate,” Merced County Sheriff Vernon Warnke told reporters. “We’re hoping that he will cooperate because first and foremost we want the family back.”

The nature of his injuries hasn’t been released.

A police handout of Jesus Manuel Salgado

Salgado was identified after investigators said he used one of the victim’s bank cards at an ATM in Atwater, California. Authorities have since postulated that the brazen abduction may have been financially motivated. Warnke said Salgado has a previous conviction for robbery, dating back to 2005. He was sentenced to prison and released on parole in 2015.

“We kind of figured that that’s what the motive is right now until we prove otherwise,” Warnke said.

California Highway Patrol troopers discovered Amandeep Singh’s 2020 black Dodge Ram pickup truck on fire in Winton shortly before noon on Monday and then made contact with a family member of Amandeep Singh’s at his home. Thereafter, he, along with his brother, his brother's wife, and that couple's child were reported missing.

A farmer later found one of the family members’ phones near what police say was the scene of the kidnapping, officials said.

RELATED: Officials Release Cause Of Death For Missing Texas Mother Found Dead In Mall Parking Lot

Investigators now suspect the Singhs, Kaur and Dheri were “taken against their will” by Salgado at gunpoint from their business in the 800 Block of South Highway 59, about three hours before the burning truck was discovered.

Surveillance footage, some of which was released by police, shows that the Singh brothers both arrived at the building around 8:30 a.m., and other footage captured the kidnapping suspect — who police have identified as Salgado — wandering along the highway near the premises with a trash bag around the same time.

Jasdeep Singh is seen leaving the building and making contact with the suspect, and clearly having the man follow him into the building. But before they got to the front door, the suspect pulled out a gun and the two went inside.

Approximately 12 minutes later, video captured Salgado forcing the Singh bothers — whose hands both appeared to be zip-tied behind their backs —into Amandeep Singh’s Dodge pickup truck, driving off and then returning. The suspect then went back into the business, after which Kaur and Dheri are seen getting into the vehicle.

Officials said they’re also now probing whether Salgado conspired with an accomplice to carry out the family’s kidnapping.

“We don’t have any evidence to say that he didn’t, however [in my] 43 years doing this, everything points to there was probably somebody else but we don’t know,” Warnke, who had previously referred to Salgado as a “low-life,” added. 

It’s unclear if Salgado knew the victims prior to the suspected kidnapping. He hasn’t yet been charged in connection with the alleged incident.

Relatives of the missing California family also appeared alongside law enforcement at Wednesday’s press conference.

“My family is feeling every emotion you can imagine,” Sukh Bhela previously told Visalia, California outlet KMPH-TV. “Despite that shock and anger we feel we're trying to abide by the principles of our faith, the Sikh faith.”

Sikhs believe in service to others, and regularly practice acts of kindness, especially to those in need, in keeping with their faith.

Behela said his cousins immigrated from Punjab, India and settled in Merced County in the early 2000s. 

“My uncle, my aunt and my cousin immigrated here in the early 2000s, seeking the American dream,” Bhela said. “Yesterday, that American dream became the American nightmare.”

The family is now begging for the public’s help in locating the family.

“We’re trying to piece it together ourselves,” Bhela told KMPH-TV. “We’re asking the media to help us, we’re asking the community to help us. You get uneasy sitting here, you feel almost helpless.”

Salgado hadn't been booked into a Merced County jail as of Wednesday afternoon, according to current online jail records. Attorney information wasn’t immediately available for him.

Anyone with additional information pertaining to the California family’s whereabouts is urged to contact the Merced County Sheriff’s Office at 209-385-7547. Tips can be made anonymously.

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