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Four family members who were kidnapped in California have been found dead, sheriff says

(NEW YORK) — All four family members who were mysteriously kidnapped have been found dead in an extremely rural farm area, the Merced County sheriff said Wednesday night.

Eight-month-old Aroohi Dheri and her parents — 27-year-old mother Jasleen Kaur and 36-year-old father Jasdeep Singh — were taken against their will from a business in Merced County in Northern California on Monday, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said. The baby’s uncle, 39-year-old Amandeep Singh, was also kidnapped, the sheriff said.

A farm worker in the area came across the bodies of the relatives, which were found relatively close together, Warnke said Wednesday night.

The Department of Justice crime lab is going to process the scene, the sheriff said, saying they “don’t know all the facts yet.”

The sheriff called it “horribly senseless,” adding that no motivation is known right now. Warnke said he was able to talk to the suspect but did not provide details.

The family has been notified, Warnke said.

A person of interest was taken into custody Tuesday and police had released surveillance video in connection with the kidnapping.

“We are devastated, we are shocked, we are dying every moment,” a relative said earlier Wednesday during a news conference before they were found.

At the news conference, sheriff’s officials revealed video showing the family’s movements outside the business — a trucking company — on the day of the kidnapping.

At 8:30 a.m. Monday, Jasdeep Singh arrived at the business in a minivan, and minutes later, his brother Amandeep Singh arrived there in his pickup truck, the sheriff’s office said.

Someone was seen walking along the highway near the business that morning, officials said. Jasdeep Singh then made contact with the suspect and the two walked back toward the building, officials said.

The suspect was seen on video pulling out a gun and entering the business, officials said.

At 9:11 a.m., video showed the back door opening and the armed suspect exiting, officials said.

Jasdeep and Amandeep Singh were seen exiting the building, apparently with their hands zip-tied behind their backs, and were put in the back seat of the pickup truck, officials said.

The truck left for a few minutes and then returned, and the suspect got out of the truck and went into the business, officials said.

Less than one minute later, Jasleen Kaur and her 8-month-old baby exited the business, officials said.

The final surveillance video image showed the truck leaving the business, officials said.

The four family members were the only people in the business at the time, the sheriff said.

Authorities announced Tuesday that a person of interest — 48-year-old Jesus Manuel Salgado — was in custody.

Salgado attempted to take his own life “prior to law enforcement involvement” and is in critical condition and receiving medical attention, the sheriff’s office said. Investigators have not been able to speak to him, officials said

No motive is known, Warnke said.

“We don’t know if there’s prior history” with the person of interest and the family, the sheriff told ABC News on Tuesday.

“That person right now is our sole lead,” the sheriff said Wednesday.

The sheriff added that he believes at least one other person is involved.

The sheriff’s office announced on Tuesday that Amandeep Singh’s truck had been found on fire shortly before noon on Monday.

Police went to Amandeep Singh’s Merced home around 12:35 p.m. Monday; while they couldn’t locate him, they spoke to another relative, the sheriff’s office said. When the relative couldn’t reach Jasleen Kaur, Jasdeep Singh or Amandeep Singh, the relative reported them missing, the sheriff’s office said.

Sheriff’s officials then responded to the business, and “during the primary investigation, detectives determined that the individuals were kidnapped,” the sheriff’s office said Tuesday.

There were two bank transactions from the family’s accounts, the sheriff said.

Officials said on Tuesday that detectives received information that one of the victim’s ATM cards was used at a bank in the city of Atwater, in Merced County. The sheriff’s office initially said a person captured in surveillance footage making a transaction at the bank matched the appearance of a suspect seen in surveillance footage at the kidnapping scene. The sheriff’s office later said a photo of the person at the ATM was not the person of interest who is in custody.

The FBI, California Department of Justice and local law enforcement agencies were involved in the search, the sheriff’s office said. Merced County is located between San Francisco and Fresno.

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