Merced kidnapping: Vigils begin to remember 4 family members

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ByNico Payne via KFSN logo
Friday, October 7, 2022
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The Merced community came together to honor the family found dead after being kidnapped this week.

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- As the sun set in the North Valley Thursday, there was a circle of prayer to remember a family of four taken too soon.

Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke says the bodies of 36-year-old Jasdeep Singh, 27-year-old Jasleen Kaur, their eight-month-old child Aroohi Dheri and the baby's uncle, 39-year-old Amandeep Singh were found Wednesday evening in an orchard near Indiana and Hutchins Roads.

On Monday, the family members were kidnapped from a business at the intersection of Dickenson Ferry Road and South Highway 59 in Merced County.

RELATED: Merced kidnapping: Suspect worked for family, baby was left to die, family spokesperson said

"He picked him up every day, so it was more seeing him at the gate every day after school and just saying hi and making eye contact, and a smile," says Franklin Elementary teacher Catherine Friedman.

Friedman currently teaches the six-year-old son of Amandeep Singh, the uncle killed in this family tragedy.

"It's really sad because these are our kids," she said. "We have them seven, eight hours a day, and their problems at home are problems at school. They're kind of like our own children."

Matthew Serratto is the mayor of Merced and discussed the shock that has reached the community as investigators continue to look for answers as to why.

"There's a lot of shock, a lot of anger that this could happen in our community, but our community is strong," he said.

Acknowledging that evil exists in this world, the mayor said moving forward, the community of Merced will focus on healing and supporting those involved in this tragedy. They will continue to hold vigils for the next three days.

RELATED: Merced kidnapping: Suspect in custody has violent past, previously arrested for robbery, threats

"Four nights -- one representing, paying respects to and honoring each of the four victims of this case, and also to give people more of an opportunity to attend," he said.

School officials are waiting to hear from family members before addressing any classrooms on what happened.

"We had counselors on site," Friedman said. "We're kind of pretty much keeping it a little quiet with the young ones because I do teach six-year-olds, so we're kind of waiting for the family to find out what they want those students to know."

A family spokesperson tells Action News the primary suspect in the kidnapping and murder, Jesus Manuel Salgado, is a former employee who used to drive for the victim's trucking company. They had a disagreement and parted ways.

RELATED: Merced County kidnapping: New video shows suspect take 2 zip-tied family members, mom and baby

Salgado was officially booked into the Merced County Jail on four counts of kidnapping and four counts of murder Thursday evening. Deputies say he tried killing himself before being taken into custody on Tuesday.

A GoFundMe has been created by the surviving family members to help provide financial relief.