The man involved in the kidnapping and killing of the Indian-origin Sikh family in California, including an eight-month-old baby girl, was previously also jailed for robbery after he held a family he had then worked for at gunpoint and terrorised them 17 years ago.
Jesus Salgado, who was arrested on Thursday on the suspicion of kidnapping and killing the Sikh family of four, 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her 27-year-old mother Jasleen Kaur, her 36-year-old father Jasdeep Singh, and her 39-year-old uncle Amandeep Singh, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2007 and was released in 2015 and discharged from parole 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.
Nearly two decades ago, Salgado worked for a family, which also owned a trucking company, but was fired in 2004 because the family suspected him of stealing money, members of the family told the Los Angeles Times.
Kathy and her daughter Katrina when first saw surveillance images of Salgado, they did not immediately recognise him. Salgado, now 48, had aged significantly, and Kathy and Katrina weren’t sure he was the man who robbed them at gunpoint in their dark garage 17 years ago.
They noticed the methods in the two crimes seemed eerily similar: terrorise a family on their property at gunpoint and force them to follow orders under the threat of death.
On the night of December 19, 2005, he showed up at their home wearing a mask and held a gun to the father’s head and bounded his hands with duct tape, recalled his daughter Katrina, who was 16 years old at the time Salgado rounded up the family, as well as a friend of Katrina’s who was visiting, and took them to the garage, where the family kept a safe with cash and jewelry, she and her mother, Kathy, said.
After robbing them, even taking Kathy’s wedding ring, Salgado then led the family to the pool in the backyard and made them jump in as he escaped, Kathy and Katrina recalled. He was caught just a few days later after the family reported him to police.
Salgado was convicted in early 2007 of home invasion robbery with a gun, attempted false imprisonment and witness intimidation, Merced County prosecutors said. He served nearly 10 years in prison before getting paroled in 2015.
Video surveillance this week showed that, as with Kathy and Katrina’s family, the suspect in Monday’s kidnapping held the Singh family at gunpoint, binding the men’s arms but not Japanners Kurtas.
On Tuesday morning, Merced County sheriff’s detectives learned that a bank card belonging to one of the victims was used at a bank ATM in the nearby town of Atwater.
After reviewing surveillance video from the bank, investigators believed the person making the transaction resembled a man photographed by security cameras at the site of the kidnapping, authorities said.
Salgado was identified as a person of interest in the investigation and “prior to law enforcement involvement” attempted to take his own life, the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition.
Salgado was jailed on suspicion of kidnapping and murder on Thursday, after being released from the hospital.
On Friday Salgado’s younger brother, Alberto Salgado, was arrested on charges of criminal conspiracy and destroying evidence.
Investigators are still trying to determine a motive, but Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said he believes it could relate to money, adding there was no evidence to suggest the incident may have been a hate crime.
Salgado was a former employee of the family who had a longstanding dispute with them that "got pretty nasty," authorities said Thursday.
The bodies of the four victims originally from Harsi Pind in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, were found Wednesday in a remote area near the town of Dos Palos, California, about 50 kms south of Merced, California.
Merced County Sheriff Warnke did not share the condition of the adults’ remains and said it was unclear how the baby died. He said the child had no visible trauma and an autopsy will be conducted.
Warnke said he believes the family was killed within an hour of the Monday morning kidnapping.
Jaspreet Kaur, Amandeep's widow, said in a GoFundMe fundraiser that her husband and his brother had been in the United States for 18 years and supported not only their families in California but also their elderly parents back in India.
“This is the story of our shared American dream gone wrong,” she wrote. “Our loving family was violently taken away from us on October 3rd,” the family's gofundme page said.
Kaur said her husband routinely donated food to the local food bank and never missed Sunday service in the local Sikh temple. They had a 9-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son.
The family's gofundme page said the two brothers were "the primary bread earners for the family (and) supported their elderly parents." The sheriff has said said he hopes the district attorney pursues the death penalty in the case.
“There’s a special place in hell” for the suspect, Warnke said.