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Fresno Police Chief Decries California’s ‘Weak Laws’ After Merced Kidnapping Murders



(GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said “there’s a special place in hell” for the suspected killer of four kidnapped Merced family members after their bodies were found Wednesday night.

Warnke isn’t alone in expressing those feelings.

The horrific murders of 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri; her mother Jasleen Kaur, 27; father Jasdeep Singh, 36; and uncle Amandeep Singh, 39, have triggered widespread outrage over the crimes — and sympathy for their grieving survivors.

The deadly brutality and senselessness of what violent career criminal Jesus Salgado, 48, is accused of inflicting on the young Sikh family triggered this visceral response from Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama.

“I’m furious! Completely senseless and tragic loss of innocent life. My heart breaks for this family,” Balderrama tweeted. “I pray justice can be served in this murder case, and those responsible be held accountable to the full extent of the law. Sadly, that’s not saying much w/ CA’s weak laws.”

However, some people said they were disturbed by law enforcement leaders criticizing California’s criminal laws in the wake of the murders.

“I wish all the pro law enforcement people would stop using this family’s tragedy as a political talking point against California’s laws. Maybe if you did your job and used all your budgets and gadgets we wouldn’t be in this situation. Let the family mourn,” tweeted Fresno attorney Aida S. Macedo on Thursday.

Salgado Taped Hands of Robbery Victims, Held Them at Gunpoint in 2005

Salgado’s rap sheet includes a conviction for first-degree robbery with the use of a firearm in Merced County and convictions for attempted kidnapping, attempting to intimidate a witness, and drug possession.

The lone suspect in the kidnapping is Jesus Salgado, 48. He is hospitalized after trying to commit suicide, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office says. (Merced County SO)

Thanks to the excellent reporting of CBS47’s Mederios Babb, it apparently was only a matter of time before Salgado turned violent again.

“(The) suspect accused of kidnapping Merced family was previously convicted for an oddly similar case,” Babb revealed. “I spoke with one of the 2005 robbery victims, who told me Jesus Salgado held him at gunpoint, duct taped his family’s hands, (and) told them ‘if you call the police I’ll kill you.’ ”

The Merced community will grieve together with four nights of vigils starting tonight at 7 o’clock and concluding Sunday.

The vigils will be held at Bob Hart Square, 510 W. Main St., in Merced.

Governor’s Office Responds to Murders

“The Governor and First Partner join Merced in mourning this senseless tragedy and hold the family, their friends and loved ones, and the community in their hearts during this painful time,” a governor’s office spokesperson told GV Wire’s David Taub.

“The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services is working closely with the Merced County Sheriff’s Office as they lead this investigation.”

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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