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Suspect in the deaths of a California family has been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murder, authorities say

By Jason Hanna, Aya Elamroussi and Taylor Romine, CNN

A suspect already in custody in connection with the kidnapping and killing of four California family members — including a baby girl — was formally arrested late Thursday in the case, a sheriff’s office said.

Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, was arrested on four counts of murder and four counts of kidnapping, Merced County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Alexandra Britton said.

Salgado is accused of kidnapping the four — 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her parents Jasleen Kaur and Jasdeep Singh, and her uncle Amandeep Singh — from the victims’ central California family trucking business on Monday and killing them that day, authorities said.

The bodies of the four were found in a farm area in central California’s Merced County on Wednesday evening, with a farmworker alerting authorities to finding at least some of the remains in an orchard there, authorities said.

Wednesday’s discovery, which came a day after Salgado was detained as a suspect, was announced by a visibly emotional sheriff who said the killings were “completely and totally senseless.”

“There’s a special place in hell for this guy,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said Wednesday night, referring to the suspect.

“A whole family (was) wiped out, and we still don’t know why,” Warnke said.

The family was kidnapped at gunpoint — an abduction recorded on surveillance video — from their trucking business Monday morning in Merced, authorities said. Investigators learned they were missing after a family vehicle was found abandoned and on fire that morning, authorities said.

Police took Salgado into custody Tuesday after his family told law enforcement he admitted to being involved in the kidnapping, Britton said.

“The circumstances around this, when we are able to release everything, should anger the hell out of you,” Warnke said.

The suspect attempted suicide sometime before he was taken into custody, and he has been receiving medical attention, Warnke said.

Warnke did not say how the family was slain. He said it appears they were killed where they were found, and killed before the sheriff’s department was notified Monday that the family was missing.

Salgado is the main suspect in the killings, though investigators believe others may have been involved, according to Warnke, who did not elaborate on the extent of that involvement.

“I fully believe that we will uncover and find out that there was more than just him involved,” Warnke said.

He has been providing information to investigators, and officials are working with him to identify a motive, Warnke said.

Salgado has been booked into the Merced County Jail, the sheriff’s office said. CNN has been unable to identify an attorney for him, and calls to family members have gone unanswered.

Salgado was previously in prison for nearly a decade after being convicted of attempted false imprisonment, first degree robbery and possession of a controlled substance, according to records from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In the previous case, Salgado was sentenced to 11 years in January 2007. He was released on parole in June 2015, and his parole supervision ended in June 2018, the department told CNN in an email.

Kidnapping of ‘peace-loving’ family caught on video

Earlier Wednesday, authorities released surveillance footage of the kidnapping at the family’s Merced trucking business Monday morning.

The video shows Jasdeep Singh arriving at the business’ parking lot at 8:30 a.m., followed by Amandeep Singh arriving nine minutes later.

Shortly before 9 a.m., Jasdeep is seen encountering a man outside the business. The man carried a trash bag and pulled out what appeared to be a firearm, the video shows.

Several minutes later, Jasdeep and Amandeep are seen with their hands tied behind their backs as they get into a truck. Shortly after, the truck leaves and returns six minutes later.

Upon returning, the suspect enters the business and exits with a gun in hand as Jasleen Kaur holds 8-month-old Aroohi and walks in front of the suspect to the truck.

Later Monday, a farmer found two of the victims’ cell phones on a road, authorities said. At one point, the farmer answered the phone and spoke with a relative of the victims.

Before the bodies were found Wednesday evening, a family member had urged people to come forward with any information in the case.

“This is a peace-loving family and running a small business in the Merced area,” pleaded Balvinder, a family member. “This is something that nobody is prepared for dealing with … we are just hoping and praying every moment.”

On Tuesday morning, investigators learned that an ATM card belonging to one of the victims was used at a bank in Atwater, California, which is about 9 miles northwest of Merced, the sheriff’s office said.

It is unclear whether the man in custody is the person who used that card, Britton said.

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CNN’s Natasha Chen, Ray Sanchez, Cheri Mossburg and Jack Hannah contributed to this report.

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