A 48-year-old man considered a “person of interest” in the kidnapping of a family of four in California is in custody, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.
Authorities are working to confirm the man they have in custody is the same suspect they released photos of on Monday, Alexandra Britton, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, told CNN.
The family is still missing.
“Investigators obtained the surveillance photo of a subject making a bank transaction where the person is similar in appearance to the surveillance photo from the original kidnapping scene,” the Merced County Sheriff’s Office statement says.
Before law enforcement involvement, the 48-year-old “attempted to take his own life,” and is currently in “custody, receiving medical attention and in critical condition.”
The family includes 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her parents Jasleen Kaur and Jasdeep Singh as well as the child’s uncle Amandeep Singh, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Facebook.
“Investigators continue to follow up on all leads and are working diligently to find the family,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement Tuesday.
“We continue to ask for the public’s help with any information that may assist us in locating the family’s whereabouts. If you have any information regarding this incident or the whereabouts of the victims, please call our tip line at 209.385.7547,” the statement read.
The family is believed to have been “taken against their will” while at a business in the 800 block of South Highway 59 in Merced, which is in central California between Modesto and Fresno.
“We have no motivation behind it. We just know they are gone,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said in a video message posted on Facebook.
A vehicle owned by one of the family members was found on fire late Monday, which led law enforcement to determine that the four had been kidnapped.
“We’ve got evidence to indicate that the individuals involved in this destroyed evidence in an attempt to cover up their tracks,” Warnke said.
The sheriff implored people to come forward with any information they may have related to the kidnapping, saying there has been no known contact for ransom.
“It’s imperative that we get some information on this,” Warnke said. “People are going to be working 24 hours on this until we get a break.”
The suspect is described as a man with a shaved head and was last seen wearing a hooded sweatshirt, the sheriff’s office said. He is considered armed and dangerous, officials added.
The sheriff’s office on Tuesday offered a brief timeline of events:
- At 11:39 a.m. Monday, California Highway Patrol officers responded to a 2020 Dodge Ram on fire and asked the Merced Police Department to help track down the vehicle’s owner.
- At 12:35 p.m. Monday, Merced police officers arrived at the truck owner’s address and met with a family member at that location. They attempted to contact the three adults, but were unable to reach them.
- At 1:04 p.m. Monday, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office responded to a business on South Highway 59.
“During the primary investigation, Detectives determined that the individuals were kidnapped,” the sheriff’s office stated.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the California Department of Justice have joined the investigation, the sheriff’s office said Tuesday.