Brother of suspect in murder of family in California arrested

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The younger brother of a man suspected of kidnapping and murdering an 8-month-old baby, her parents and an uncle, has been arrested on suspicion of helping his brother destroy evidence, authorities said Friday .

Alberto Salgado, 41, was arrested late Thursday and charged with criminal conspiracy, complicity and destruction of evidence, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office said. He is in the Merced County Jail, the same place where suspect Jesus Salgado, 48, is being held on charges of kidnapping and murder. It was not clear whether both brothers had a lawyer who could speak on their behalf.

The bodies of Aroohi Dheri; her mother Jasleen Kaur, 27; father Jasdeep Singh, 36; and Uncle Amandeep Singh, 39, were found late Wednesday by a farm worker in an almond orchard in a remote area of ​​the San Joaquin Valley, California’s agricultural heartland.

Jesus Salgado β€” a convicted felon who attempted suicide a day after the kidnappings β€” had worked for the family’s trucking company and had a long-standing feud with them, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke told The Associated Press on Thursday.

He was treated in a hospital before being taken to prison.

Warnke had said detectives were also looking for a person believed to be his accomplice.

Relatives of the victims and fellow members of the Punjabi Sikh community, meanwhile, were shocked by the killings.

During a vigil Thursday night in downtown Merced, hundreds of people held burning candles and formed a circle of magnified photos of the victims. Religious leaders of various faiths opened the ceremony with prayers for the family, the Merced Sun-Star reported.

“Tonight the community came together and showed the Singh family that ‘we are here with you and we will be here with you as long as you need us, and we will remember the names of those we have lost’,” a friend of the Priya Lakireddy’s family told the newspaper.

The town of Merced, where the family lived and ran their trucking business, will hold vigils in the commemoration through Sunday.

The elder Salgado had previously been convicted of first-degree robbery with use of a firearm in Merced County, attempted false imprisonment, and attempting to prevent or dissuade a victim or witness. In that case, he was sentenced to 11 years in state prison, was released in 2015, and paroled three years later, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He also has a conviction for possession of a controlled substance, the department said.

Relatives of Salgado contacted authorities and told them he had admitted their involvement in the kidnapping, Warnke told KFSN-TV on Tuesday. Salgado attempted suicide before police arrived at a home in Atwater – where an ATM belonging to one of the victims was used after the kidnapping – about 9 miles north of Merced.

Attempts to reach Salgado’s family were unsuccessful on Friday.

The victims were Punjabi Sikhs, a community strongly represented in the trucking industry in central California, where many of them drive trucks, own truck companies or other truck-related businesses.

Public records show that the family owns Unison Trucking Inc. and relatives said they had opened an office in recent weeks in a parking lot that the Singh brothers also operated. The feud with Salgado dates back to a year ago, the sheriff said, and “got pretty nasty” in text messages or emails. Other details about Salgado’s employment and the nature of the dispute were not immediately available.

Warnke said he believes the family was murdered within an hour of the Monday morning kidnapping, when they were taken from their business at gunpoint. Their bodies were found near the town of Dos Palos, about 50 kilometers south of Merced.

Warnke declined to discuss the condition of the remains of the adults in the orchard on Thursday, but said it was unclear how the baby died. Warnke said the child was the only one without visible trauma and an autopsy will be performed.

Surveillance video showed the suspect – later identified as Salgado – leading the Singh brothers, who had their hands zipped behind their backs, to the back seat of Amandeep Singh’s pickup. He drove the brothers away and returned a few minutes later.

The suspect then returned to the trailer that served as the office and led Jasleen Kaur, who was carrying her baby in her arms, outside and into the truck before the suspect drove them away shortly before 9:30 am.

Hours later, firefighters found Amandeep Singh’s truck on Monday in the town of Winton, 10 miles north of Merced. Police officers went to Amandeep Singh’s home, where a relative tried to reach him and the couple. When they couldn’t reach their relatives, they called the sheriff’s office to report them missing.

They were probably already dead.


Dazio reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles and news researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.


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