The "sole lead" investigators have in the search for a kidnapped central California family is a man who is unconscious after a suicide attempt, authorities said Wednesday as they released security video of the kidnapping.
Jesus Manuel Salgado, who had been taken into custody as a "person of interest," is now being called a suspect by Merced County sheriff's investigators.
Before deputies could get to Salgado, 48, on Tuesday, he tried to die by suicide, officials said. He is in a hospital under sedation, with detectives ready to talk to him as soon as he regains consciousness, officials said.
“Prayers need to be going that somehow this suspect is convinced to talk to us, because that person right now is our sole lead on where the people are,” Sheriff Vern Warnke told reporters.
He is under "medically induced sedation" because doctors need him under control to provide lifesaving care, Warnke said.
"They didn't want him thrashing around," Warnke said. "I can tell you that every time he's come near consciousness, he's been violent."
The whereabouts of 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri; her parents, Jasleen Kaur, 27, and Jasdeep Singh, 36; and her uncle Amandeep Singh, 39, were still a mystery Wednesday, officials said.
During a half-hour-long meeting with reporters at the Merced County Board of Supervisors chambers, the sheriff’s department released security video appearing to show the suspect kidnapping the family in two separate car trips.
A man walking down Highway 59 in Merced can be seen carrying a trash bag and walking into the family business. But just before he enters, he drops the bag and appears to pull out a handgun, video shows.
The man is wearing a hoodie, and his face is obscured by a mask.
No security cameras were inside the business, officials said.
Minutes later, at about 9:11 a.m., the armed man marches Jasdeep Singh and Amandeep Singh out the back of the business, Unison Trucking, with their hands zip-tied behind their backs.
They get into Amandeep Singh’s black Dodge pickup truck and drive away at 9:13 a.m.
The truck goes back to the family business at 9:19 a.m. before the suspect is seen taking Jasleen Kaur, who is carrying her infant, out the back door and into the truck and driving away.
Undersheriff Corey Gibson said, "From this time on we no longer see any of the four victims on video at the location or the suspect vehicle or the suspect.”
Salgado was captured in nearby Atwater after his own family called authorities.
“He attempted suicide prior to any law enforcement contact," Warnke said.
"The family had told our suspect that they had, in fact, contacted law enforcement because of what he had told them. Rather than talk to law enforcement, he attempted to take his own life.”
The kidnapping came to the attention of authorities only after firefighters and the Highway Patrol came upon a burning truck, later found to be Amandeep Singh’s black Dodge pickup, officials said.
When Singh's relatives couldn't reach him, investigators went to the family trucking business, where they got video showing the kidnapping, authorities said.
A farmer also found two cellphones belonging to the victims in nearby Dos Palos, officials said.
Sukhdeep Singh, a brother of two of the victims, pleaded with residents to jog their memories or check security video for anything out of the ordinary this week.
Sheriff’s deputies are “trying their best with what they can do, but we need the public’s help right now,” said Singh, his voice choking with emotion.
“Please help us out and come forward so my family can come home safe.”
Salgado was convicted of robbery in 2005 and paroled in 2015.
"We don't have a motive,” Warnke said. “Since the parole, we have not had any major contact with this person at all. But we kind of figure that’s what the motive is right now until we prove otherwise."