By Brendan O’Brien, Jyoti Narayan and Ann Maria Shibu
(Reuters) -Four members of a California family, including an 8-month-old girl, were found dead in a rural area on Wednesday after they were abducted in the city of Merced on Monday, authorities said.
The victims were identified as the baby, Aroohi Dheri, who was abducted along with her mother, Jasleen Kaur, 27, her father, Jasdeep Singh, 36, and the baby’s uncle, Amandeep Singh, 39. Police say the four were abducted on Monday morning from the family’s trucking company in Merced, about 150 miles (240 km) east of San Jose.
“Tonight our worst fears have been confirmed. We found the four people from the kidnapping and they are in fact deceased,” Merced County Sheriff Vernon Warnke said in a media briefing.
Describing the incident as “horribly senseless”, Warnke said that the motivation for the crime was not known yet, adding that they were alerted by a farm worker.
Authorities in Merced County said Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, was a suspect in the family’s deaths and was in custody. They were attempting to speak with Salgado, who was hospitalized after trying to kill himself before being taken into custody, to determine whether another person was involved, Warnke had said during a news conference on Wednesday morning.
“We are devastated. We are shocked. We are dying every moment,” a relative who gave only his first name, Balwinder, said during that news conference.
Warnke said they had notified the family about the deaths.
“We got information from the suspect. We are going to keep that close to our chest at this point, but that suspect has in fact been talking to us,” Warnke said.
Police had shown a surveillance video from outside the trucking company showing a man whose face was obscured by a medical-style mask leading away Jasdeep and Amandeep Singh, then Kaur and her daughter.
Police were alerted to the crime after finding Amandeep Singh’s black 2020 Dodge Ram pickup truck burning on the side of a county road. While investigating, sheriff’s deputies were unable to reach the family and determined they had been abducted, leading them to the trucking business.
Authorities took Salgado into custody after the family’s ATM card was used at a nearby bank. A motive has yet to be determined, the sheriff said.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien, with Jyoti Narayan and Ann Maria Shibu in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Rhea Binoy in Bengaluru; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Gerry Doyle)