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Person of interest caught in family kidnapping, victims still missing

A person of interest in the kidnapping of a family of four of a local business in Central California’s Merced County was detained on Tuesday, authorities said. The family, including a baby, is still missing.

Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, was taken into custody after a victim’s credit card was used Tuesday morning at an ATM in the Merced County town of Atwater, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office said. Security video from the bank showed a person using the card looking the same as the person of interest seen in previous surveillance photos taken at the kidnapping scene, the sheriff’s office said.

Left: An undated photo of 48-year-old Jesus Manuel Salgado, a stakeholder in the disappearance of a family of four from a business in Merced County, Central California, on October 3, 2022. On the left are surveillance photos of a man being presumed to be Salgado, was taken on October 3. / Credit: Merced County Sheriff’s Office

Salgado attempted suicide before being arrested, the sheriff’s office said. He was hospitalized in critical condition. The exact details of his capture were not provided. A press conference was scheduled for Wednesday morning. Monday morning, a baby girl, her parents and her uncle were abducted from a Merced County business, the sheriff’s office said. They were identified as 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her mother, 27-year-old Jasleen Kaur, her father, 36-year-old Jasdeep Singh and her 39-year-old uncle, Amandeep Singh. They have been missing since late Tuesday afternoon, the sheriff’s office said, and several agencies are searching. There was no word on a motive or the possible connection between Salgado and the victims. It is also unclear whether detectives are looking for multiple suspects.

Undated photos of the missing family of four: baby Aroohi Dheri, her mother, Jasleen Kaur, her father, Jasdeep Singh, and her uncle (R) Amandeep Singh, who were abducted from a business in California's Merced County on October 3, 2022.  .  / Credit: Merced County Sheriff's Office

Undated photos of the missing family of four: baby Aroohi Dheri, her mother, Jasleen Kaur, her father, Jasdeep Singh, and her uncle (R) Amandeep Singh, who were abducted from a business in California’s Merced County on October 3, 2022. / Credit: Merced County Sheriff’s Office

The investigation was launched when a pickup truck registered in the name of Amandeep Singh was found ablaze late Monday on a rural road in Winton, a community a few miles north of the city of Merced, the sheriff’s office said.

California Highway Patrol agents tried to contact Amandeep, but when they were unsuccessful, they reached out to a relative, who was also unable to contact Amandeep. In the end, the family member reported all four missing. Early Monday afternoon, sheriff’s detectives determined that the four had been kidnapped from the business. “We have evidence that the individuals involved in this destruction destroyed evidence in an attempt to cover their tracks,” Merced County Sheriff Vernon Warnke said in a video released Monday night ahead of Salgado’s arrest.

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