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Suspect in California’s family’s kidnapping found; victims missing

Updated October 4, 2022 - 9:04 pm

MERCED, Calif. — A man suspected of kidnapping a Sikh family, including an 8-month-old baby, in central California tried to kill himself Tuesday and is hospitalized in critical condition, authorities said. The family is still missing.

The Merced County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that investigators identified Jesus Salgado, 48, after he used a victims’ ATM card. The family was kidnapped Monday at gunpoint from a business in Merced, the office said, without providing further details. According to Naindeep Singh, the head of a local Sikh community organization, the four were taken from the gas station and convenience store they own.

Detectives obtained an surveillance photo from the ATM in Atwater, a city about 9 miles north of Merced, and “the person is similar in appearance to the surveillance photo from the original kidnapping scene,” the office said in a statement. The sheriff’s office had released two still images of a possible suspect seen in surveillance footage, and asked for the public’s help in identifying him.

Detectives received information that identified Salgado as a person of interest and that he attempted to take his own life before police arrived, the statement said, without specifying where he was taken into custody. The sheriff’s office will hold a news conference Wednesday to give more details.

The kidnapper took the baby, Aroohi Dheri; the child’s mother, Jasleen Kaur, 27; father Jasdeep Singh, 36; and uncle Amandeep Singh, 39, said Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke in a video published Monday on Facebook.

Warnke said the kidnapper made no ransom demands or contact of any kind.

Naindeep Singh, executive director of Jakara Movement, a Punjabi Sikh community organization in central California, said the victims’ relatives told him the family was taken from their gas station.

“They were in shock and worried about the family and the baby. They are in a lot of grief,” said Naindeep Singh, who is not related to the victims. He said the family has asked for privacy.

The sheriff said detectives believe the kidnapper destroyed unspecified evidence in an attempt to cover his tracks.

The sheriff’s office said in a statement Tuesday that firefighters on Monday found a pickup truck belonging to Amandeep Singh that was on fire. Merced Police Department officers went to Amandeep Singh’s home where a family member tried to reach him and the couple. When they were not able to reach their family members, they called the Merced County Sheriff’s Office to report them missing, the office said.

The sheriff’s office said the FBI, the California Department of Justice, and other local law enforcement agencies are helping with the investigation.

Merced is a city of 86,000 people about 125 miles southeast of San Francisco in the San Joaquin Valley.

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