California Man Charged With Kidnapping and Killing Family, Including 8-Month-Old Baby, Pleads Not Guilty

Jesus Manuel Salgado.Merced County Sheriff's Office

Jesus Manuel Salgado, the California man charged with kidnapping and killing a family, has pleaded not guilty.

A California man charged with kidnapping and killing an 8-month old, her parents and her uncle, has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder.

Jesus Manuel Salgado, 48, pleaded not guilty to all charges filed against him, which include arson and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. The murder charges carry special circumstances, which allege that the slayings took place during the commission of a kidnapping and were part of multiple killings in the same case.

The special circumstances designation means Salgado could face the death penalty if convicted.

He is accused of abducting and killing baby Aroohi Dheri, her mother, 27-year-old Jasleen Kaur, her father, 36-year-old Jasdeep Singh, and her 39-year-old uncle, Amandeep Singh. All were kidnapped at gunpoint last week from the family's trucking company in the central California city of Merced, authorities said.

Salgado had been an employee of the business and claimed he was owed back pay, authorities said.

The victims' bodies were discovered two days after their kidnapping in a remote almond orchard by a farmworker who happened upon the disturbing sight, according to Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke, who has asked for the death penalty.

"There are no words to describe the anger I feel," Warnke said during a press conference last week after the bodies were found. "There's a special place in hell for this guy."

Salgado is a convicted felon who served eight years in prison after being convicted of attempted false imprisonment, first-degree robbery and possession of a controlled substance, authorities said. He was released in 2015 and served three years of probation, according to state records.

The circumstances of that crime are similar to the recent case, authorities said. In the earlier incident, Salgado was convicted of home invasion robbery of a family, which also operated a trucking business, holding them at gunpoint and robbing them of cash and jewelry, according to officials. Salgado had been a former employee of that business, authorities said.

Late last week, Salgado's brother, Albert, was arrested on suspicion of criminal conspiracy, accessory and destroying evidence. The brother has not been charged, according to The Associated Press.

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