Four members of a California family – including an eight-month-old infant – who were kidnapped at gunpoint earlier this week have been found dead.
The victims were identified as Aroohi Dheri, her mother Jasleen Kaur, 27, her father Jasdeep Singh, 36, and Dheri’s uncle, Amandeep Singh, 39.
Their bodies were found by a farmhand at work in an orchard in rural Merced County, in central California.
A suspect is in custody, but no motive has yet been identified.
“A whole family wiped out, and we still don’t know why,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said at a news conference on Wednesday evening.
Warnke did not say how the family was killed, but said they were likely slain before they had been reported missing.
Surveillance footage released on Wednesday shows a man carrying what appears to be a firearm talking to the male victims outside their trucking business in the city of Merced on Monday morning.
The victims are then loaded into a pickup truck, with their hands zip-tied to their backs, and the suspect drives away. The truck returns a few minutes later, the suspect enters the property and, with gun in hand, walks Kaur and her infant to the truck as well.
On Tuesday, police took Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, into custody after the man’s family contacted law enforcement and told them he had admitted to being involved in the kidnapping.
Sheriff Warnke said the suspect attempted suicide before he was apprehended and had to be sedated because “every time he has come near consciousness, he’s been violent”.
“The circumstances around this, when we are able to release everything, should anger the hell out of you,” he added, visibly emotional. “There’s a special place in hell for this guy.”
A credit card belonging to one of the victims was used at an ATM within the county on Tuesday morning, but police have determined that Salgado was not the person seen in surveillance footage of the ATM.
“I fully believe that we will uncover and find out that there was more than just him involved,” the sheriff said.
He also said that, although the kidnapper did not appear to make any ransom demands, the crime appears to have been financially motivated.
Police said Salgado was previously convicted of armed robbery in 2005 but had been paroled in 2015.
Investigators are yet to establish any links between the suspect and his victims.