Aroohi Dheri, who was just 8 months old when she was murdered, had just begun to chatter when she was shot. This was the last time she would ever get to speak to her father, 36-year-old Jasdeep Singh.
Amarinder Singh, Jasdeep’s cousin, told NBC News, “She said ‘pappa’ for the first and only time.”
In a remote region of Merced, California, on Wednesday, the bodies of baby Aroohi, her parents Jasdeep and Jasleen Kaur, all 27, and her paternal uncle Amandeep Singh were discovered, not far from where they had been kidnapped two days earlier.
Accusations of murder and abduction have been made against Jesus Manuel Salgado, a former employee of Jasdeep and Amandeep’s trucking firm. Alberto Salgado, his brother, was also detained and accused of supporting him. NBC News was unable to locate an attorney who represented either of the two accused individuals.
Amarinder Singh has claimed that the days after the deaths have been a calvary for the survivors. Both Amandeep and Jasdeep left behind wives and children. Jasleen’s grandparents in India never got to meet their grandchild. Another close-knit group of cousins in California is also grieving.
When Singh found out about the fatalities, he felt “like someone had torn the Earth from under my feet,” he claimed. “I was numbed out, I was empty, I couldn’t think.”
His cousins Jasdeep and Amandeep, Singh claims, left India when they were adolescents in pursuit of the American Dream. Before their family emigrated to the United States in 2004, the two grew up together in a tiny hamlet in Punjab. Singh recalls spending the whole summer at their house.
He assured them that the United States was their best bet for safety.
They wanted to go someplace “we would feel protected, where we would believe our kids are safe,” he said. And where we, and our children, would know that hard effort pays off and that they, too, have a chance to build a good life for themselves.
He said that his cousin Amandeep was a perfect example of this. He bought his first vehicle after years of performing blue-collar jobs including cashiering and manufacturing labor.
“He began his company with a single vehicle,” Singh added. A good portion of the time, about five days a week, he was behind the wheel. On occasion, he would be absent from the house on the weekends. On average, he returned to his house every 7-10 days.
Security video shows that he was abducted from the company he spent his life building. The previously flawless image of America has developed flaws over time, and these flaws have become visible, Singh added.
It’s no secret that I’m a news junkie. As for me, I’ve heard a lot of interesting stories. The U.S. has “everything, including school shootings, mass shootings, and everything else,” he stated. But I never imagined that it would hit so close to home.
A week prior to their bodies being discovered, Singh had last seen the family. Thanksgiving is a festival that Amandeep looks forward to every year because of his big family, and he says that they discussed their plans for the occasion.
According to him, “he wanted our children to grow up together so that they knew each other and they had the same sort of attachment that we had” since “we grew up as children together in India.”
When he last saw Aroohi, she was introducing herself to Singh’s three-month-old kid. He added that Singh, Jasdeep, and Jasleen all gazed on warmly while the two chattered back and forth.
Both of them always seemed happy to see Aroohi, he recalled. Simply being a family was a source of great joy for them. The meaning of her given name, “one who possesses the spirit of God,” is reflected in her naming.
To this day, Singh says he has trouble understanding why their attacker did what they did.
He then said, “It’s completely unjustified.” An eight-month-old baby hasn’t done anybody any wrong and doesn’t deserve this, I believe everyone can agree on that.
Jaspreet Kaur, Amandeep’s wife, is a single parent. According to Singh, she hasn’t been eating or talking, and her children, ages 6 and 8, are having a hard time processing what’s happening. The younger one persists in asking when Dad will be home from work. It’s not only the boys; they also abandon their parents, who are getting on in years.
“They were all saddened by what occurred,” he added.
Over $340,000 has been donated thanks to a GoFundMe campaign that Singh and some other family members helped the rest of the immediate family put up.
But now that everything has settled, Singh says there is a void where his family used to be, and he can sense their absence everywhere.
The things they would have spoken to him, the way he would have felt when they hugged him, the activities they would have enjoyed doing with him: all of these things remain vivid in his mind. To paraphrase, “I’m going to miss all of those things.”