FRESNO, Calif (KSEE/KGPE) – The kidnapping and deaths of a Merced family of four left multiple law enforcement leaders criticizing the state’s stance on crime.
Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke expressed his frustration with the judicial system during a press conference on October 5 where he confirmed the identities of four dead bodies found in a field were in fact the missing Merced family.
During the conference, Sheriff Warnke said to those grieving that “they need to focus their anger, primarily on a judicial system that let this guy out early as far as I’m concerned.”
The suspect in the case, Jesus Salgado, is accused of kidnapping and killing the family. Salgado has a criminal past and spent eight years behind bars for first-degree robbery, attempted false imprisonment, and dissuading a witness.
Salgado was sentenced to 11 years in prison and served eight years before being paroled.
“He’s convicted once of something very similar, did his time, got paroled, here he is back again” Sherif Warnke continued.
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderamma posted on Twitter his response to the killings.
“My heart breaks for this family. I pray justice can be served in this murder case, and those responsible be held accountable to the full extent of the law,” Chief Balderrama continued. “Sadly, that’s not saying much w/ CA’s weak laws.”Chief Paco Balderamma on Twitter
Chief Balderrama says there are a number of laws that have been passed in the state that work against law enforcement. Within the last 10 to 20 years, legislation has turned felonies into misdemeanors, says Chief Balderrama.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 731 into law that could seal the criminal records of those who have been convicted of a felony four years after they have been paroled. The bill excludes those who have been convicted of serious or violent felonies and those who are required to register as sex offenders.
Chief Balderrama says the best indication of future behavior is past behavior.
“Criminals know they are not going to be punished,” said Chief Balderrama.
The governor’s office has been contacted for a statement – but has not yet issued a response.