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Suspect in California family killings worked at their business in the past, sheriff says

The Merced County Sheriff’s Office said late Thursday that Jesus Manuel Salgado has been booked on murder counts. It is not clear if he has been charged,
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The suspect in the kidnapping and deaths of four California family members, including a baby, may have worked for one of the family businesses in the past, the Merced County sheriff said in interviews Thursday.

Jesus Manuel Salgado was booked Thursday evening on murder and kidnapping counts in the deaths of the 8-month-old child, and her two parents and uncle, the sheriff's office said in a statement.

It was not clear if Salgado, 48, has been formally charged.

A motive in the abductions has not been released, but Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke told NBC affiliate KSEE of Fresno on Thursday that Salgado worked for a family business in the past.

“One of the family members had talked to me previously and stated that he had worked for one of the family companies,” Warnke told the station, but he did not know which company or what part of the family.

Warnke made similar comments to The Associated Press, saying that a family member a few days ago “told me that this guy had worked at their company and that he was sending nasty emails or nasty texts and so on.”

Aroohi Dheri; her parents Jasleen Kaur, 27, and Jasdeep Singh, 36; and her uncle Amandeep Singh, 39, were abducted Monday, officials have said. Surveillance video showed them being taken from the family trucking company by a man armed with a gun.

A farmworker found their bodies among rows of an almond orchard in a remote, rural area around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, the sheriff’s office has said.

Salgado was taken into custody in Atwater on Tuesday after his own family called authorities, but Salgado attempted suicide before law enforcement had any contact with him, Warnke has said. The sheriff has not said how.

On Thursday the sheriff’s office said that investigators have been interviewing Salgado.

Salgado was booked into the Merced County Jail on Thursday on four counts of murder and four counts of kidnapping, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

The Merced County District Attorney's Office said in a statement earlier Thursday, before that announcement, that once the sheriff's office presented its case, it would decide whether to file charges.

An emailed request for comment to the district attorney's office Thursday night was not immediately returned. A spokesperson for the sheriff's office also did not return a request for more details.

A case for Salgado did not appear in online court records Thursday night, and it was not clear if Salgado had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Causes of death have not been released by the sheriff's office. Warnke told KSEE that investigators did not see any traumatic injuries on the baby, but that a forensic pathologist would determine the exact cause of death.

Salgado was previously sentenced to 11 years in prison in January 2007 for convictions on first-degree robbery with a firearm, attempted false imprisonment, and another charge that deals with preventing or dissuading a victim or witness, according to state corrections records.

He was released to parole supervision in June 2015 and was discharged from parole in June 2018, according to the records.

Warnke told KSEE that in that case Salgado carried out a home invasion robbery of a former boss of a different company that he had worked for, and held people hostage during the robbery.