By Shawn Jansen
Source Merced Sun-Star (Merced, Calif.)
UPDATE: Bodies of kidnapped Merced County family found.
Video surveillance footage released by the Merced County Sheriff's Office captures the moment an 8-month-old baby and her family were kidnapped at gunpoint by a masked suspect.
The footage, shown to the media Wednesday morning by Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke, is the latest development in the disappearance of baby Aroohi Dheri, her parents Jasleen Kaur, 27, and Jasdeep Singh, 36, and her uncle Amandeep Singh, 39.
Sheriff's detectives believe the family members were kidnapped Monday morning at gunpoint from a business they operated just south of Merced off South Highway 59, Gateway Parking. Their whereabouts remain unknown.
A suspect, Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, remains in custody, although Warnke said he has been sedated after trying to take his own life prior to his capture.
Warnke said there are deputies currently with Salgado at a medical treatment facility waiting for doctors to get him to the point where he can cooperate. "Right now we've got to get this person into a position where we can start asking him some questions and hopefully get some answers," Warnke said.
"Right now the big question and the first question to ask is, 'Where is the family?'" Warnke added.
Merced County Undersheriff Corey Gibson detailed the timeline of when the family was kidnapped on Monday morning.
The exterior surveillance video from the business shows Jasdeep Singh arrive in a brown minivan, followed by Amandeep Singh in a black pickup truck.
The footage then shows Jasdeep Singh make contact with a masked robber, who pulled out a firearm. Minutes later, the video shows Jasdeep and Amandeep Singh restrained with zip ties behind their backs.
The suspect then puts Jasdeep and Amandeep Singh in the pickup truck and drives away, only to return, enter a building where there is no interior video surveillance and bring out baby Aroohi Dheri and her mother Jasleen Kaur, unrestrained.
The suspect then drove away on South Highway 59, and the victims haven't been seen since. "That person right now is our sole lead on where the people are," Warnke said.
The motive of the kidnapping is still unknown, but Warnke believes it was financial.
Salgado has a prior criminal history. According to Merced County prosecutors, Salgado was convicted of witness intimidation and a residential robbery with gun enhancements on Dec. 19, 2005 and released on parole from prison on June 21, 2015.
"Everything is on the table," Warnke said. "That's the only thing we can figure out because of this guy's history. That was his motivation back then so I'm figuring it's probably the same now."
Prior to this week, Warnke said law enforcement hadn't had any major contact with Salgado since he was released from prison.
Family members speak
Family members of the victims pleaded for the public to help if they can.
"(Law enforcement) are trying their best with what they can do but we need the public's help right now," said Sukhdeep Singh, who is a brother of Jasdeep and Amandeep. "I want to say strongly again to everybody who is watching me, please help us, come forward so my family comes home safe."
"This is a peace-loving family and running a small business in the Merced area," said brother-in-law Balwinder Saini. "We have been living in this area for a long time. We are devastated, we are shocked, we are dying every moment."
Meanwhile, members of the community say they are in a state of disbelief over the crime.
Sam Sangha, a family friend of the victims, said news of the kidnapping hits close to home. "I was shocked," Sangha said. "It was devastating. I didn't know what to believe. You always see that stuff in the movies, but when it happens to somebody you know, it's totally different."
"It's disturbing," Sangha added. "I have kids of my own. It's scary to know something like this could happen."
Sangha says he'd often see the family at the local Sikh Temple or at weddings, birthdays, or other community events.
"They are very decent people, nice people," said Edward Kainth, who is also a family friend. "I've known them for about seven years. They stay busy, work hard. They were starting their own business from the ground up. They're trying to live a good life, a happy life with their family."
How to help
Deputies are asking for anyone with information about the kidnapping to call 209-385-7547. Tips are confidential and you can remain anonymous.
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