“Tonight, our worst fears were confirmed,” Merced County Sheriff Fern Warnke said at a news conference Wednesday. “We found the four people who were kidnapped and they were actually dead.”
Warnke said police were called to an “extremely rural farm area” about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday when a farm worker came across the victim’s body at work. When deputies and detectives arrived at the scene, they found the victim’s body “relatively close,” he said.
The suspect was detained, but California was kidnapped.Family still missing, police say
Authorities broadcast CCTV footage at a news conference showing an armed man walking into a building off Highway 59 South that has been identified as the family’s freight business. The man was then seen leaving with his family, some of whom appeared to have their hands tied behind their backs, before loading them into a vehicle and driving away.
Earlier in the day, authorities said they had detained a person in connection with the kidnapping. He was identified as Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, who attempted suicide before being arrested and was taken to hospital in critical condition, the sheriff’s office said. In previous news conferences, county law enforcement officials said Salgado was convicted of robbery in 2005 and released on parole in 2015.
Authorities said the motive behind the kidnapping remained unclear on Wednesday. Investigators, including crime lab experts, are planning to work through the night to comb through crime scenes, Warnke said. “Right now, our focus is on belief,” he added.
Vaughnke said the victims’ families were informed of their deaths on Wednesday and were linked to “spiritual guidance” resources.
“There are no words right now to describe how angry and pointless I am about this,” Warnke said.
Andrea Salcedo contributed to this report.
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