Having worked for the family’s trucking company, the suspect in the kidnapping and murders of an 8-month-old baby, her parents, and an uncle had a long-standing grudge against them that culminated in the act of “pure evil,” a sheriff said on Thursday.
A farm worker discovered Aroohi Dheri’s body late on Wednesday in an almond orchard in a rural section of the San Joaquin Valley, the center of California’s agricultural industry, together with those of her mother Jasleen Kaur, 27, father Jasdeep Singh, 36, and uncle Amandeep Singh, 39.
The suspect, a convicted felon who attempted suicide the day after the kidnappings, was being investigated, and police were looking for a person of interest they suspected to be his collaborator.
The killings, meantime, horrified family members and other Sikhs in the Punjabi community.
“Right now, I’ve got hundreds of people in a community grieving the loss of two families, and this is worldwide. These families are across different continents,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said.
“We’ve got to show them that we can give them justice,” Warnke added.
Jesus Salgado, 48, the suspect, was taken into custody on charges of kidnapping and murder after being released from the hospital on Thursday night, according to the Sheriff’s Office. It was unclear if he had a representative who could speak for him in court.
Warnke demanded earlier that the prosecution seek the death sentence.
In his plea for Salgado’s accomplice to come forward, the sheriff referred to the incident as one of the worst crimes he had ever witnessed in his 43 years of law enforcement.
From Thursday through Sunday, Merced, where the family’s trucking company was based, will have nighttime vigils in their honor.
About 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Merced, close to the village of Dos Palos, the victims’ bodies were discovered.
On Thursday, Warnke refused to comment on the state of the adults’ bones found in the orchard but claimed it was unknown how the infant passed away.
According to Warnke, the youngster exhibited no apparent signs of trauma, and an autopsy will be done.
Salgado had previously been found guilty of attempted false imprisonment, first-degree robbery with a firearm in Merced County, and trying to deter or dissuade a victim or witness.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, he was given a sentence of 11 years in state prison in that case, was freed in 2015, and was then released from parole three years later.
According to the department, he was also found guilty of possessing a controlled narcotic.
According to Warnke, Salgado’s relatives contacted law enforcement after telling them he confessed to them about his involvement in the kidnapping.
Before police arrived at a property in Atwater, about 9 miles (14 kilometers) north of Merced, where an ATM card belonging to one of the victims was used after the kidnapping, Salgado attempted suicide.
The relatives of Salgado could not be reached on Thursday.