The sheriff of Merced County in California says a baby girl and three other family members who were kidnapped at gunpoint have been found dead.
Sheriff Vern Warnke announced Wednesday that the bodies were found in a Merced County orchard and told reporters: “Our worst fears have been confirmed.”
The announcement came after authorities released surveillance video of a man kidnapping 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her parents and uncle from their business Monday in Merced in the San Joaquin Valley southeast of San Francisco.
Authorities earlier said the four were taken by a convicted robber who tried to kill himself a day after the kidnappings. The kidnapper made no ransom demands but the sheriff has said he believes it was a financially motivated crime.
Relatives of the family kidnapped at gunpoint from their trucking business pleaded for help Wednesday as police released surveillance video of the kidnapping.
The video showed the suspect first walking by the property before talking to one of the men. Later, it shows him leading the men, who had their hands zip-tied behind their backs, into the back seat of a pickup truck. The suspect then went back to the trailer that served as the business office and led a woman, who was carrying her baby in her arms, out and into the truck before the suspect then drove away.
Family members said nothing was stolen from the trucking company but that their relatives were all wearing jewelry. Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said that after the kidnappings, an ATM card belonging to one of the victims was used in Atwater, a city about 9 miles (14 kilometers) north of Merced.
Relatives of Jesus Salgado, 48, contacted authorities reporting that he had admitted to them he was involved with the kidnapping, Warnke told KFSN-TV on Tuesday. Salgado tried to take his own life before police arrived at a home in Atwater, and he has since been hospitalized.
Salgado was previously convicted of first-degree robbery with the use of a firearm in Merced County, as well as attempted false imprisonment and an attempt to prevent or dissuade a victim or witness. He was sentenced to 11 years in state prison in that case, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
He was released from prison in 2015 and discharged from parole three years later. He also has a conviction for possession of a controlled substance, the corrections agency said.
Investigators have not found a link between Salgado and the family to show they knew each other before the kidnapping.
“As of right now, we believe it was random,” Deputy Alexandra Britton said. “We don’t have evidence to prove otherwise.”
The sheriff said detectives believe the kidnapper destroyed unspecified evidence in an attempt to cover his tracks.