The Santa Cruz County, California, Sheriff’s Department May 21 released the names and mugshots of four young men accused of kidnapping and murdering Indian American tech entrepreneur Tushar Atre.
All four men are in custody. Each has been charged with first degree murder, robbery, and kidnapping.
Atre, 50, founder and CEO of AtreNet and co-founder of Interstitial Systems — a licensed cannabis dispensary and delivery service — was kidnapped from his Santa Cruz, Calif., home early morning Oct. 1 and found dead later that morning about 10 miles away. An autopsy revealed that Atre had died from a single gunshot wound.
The suspects are: Kaleb Charters, 19, of Saint Clair Shores, Michigan; his brother Kurtis Charters, 22, of Lancaster, California; Joshua Camps, 23, also of Lancaster; and Stephen Lindsay, 22, of Burbank, California. All four were arrested May 19, in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies. Lindsay, Camps, and Kurtis Charters are being held in Santa Cruz County Jail, without bail. Kaleb Charters will be extradited back from Michigan within a day or two, said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Lt. Brian Cleveland at a press conference May 21.
None of the men have prior criminal histories. The case was presented to the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s office May 21 afternoon.
Cleveland said the motive was monetary gain. “It was a senseless crime with no explanation,” he said at the press briefing, stating also: “This was a planned event. They came armed with a rifle.”
Kaleb Charters and Lindsay had worked for Atre at his cannabis dispensary. In dozens of interviews with Atre’s employees, the two men’s names emerged repeatedly, said Cleveland.
Ashley Keehn, a spokeswoman for the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department, later told India-West that the two men had worked for Atre for less than two weeks at the time of the murder. She could not state what sum of money or other items were stolen.
Keehn also said that the Sheriff’s Department is not releasing the name of the person who shot the rifle that inflicted the gunshot wound.
According to Cleveland, on the night of the incident, the suspects emerged from an alleyway carrying a rifle. It was not disclosed which of the suspects were carrying the weapon. They went to Atre’s house — Cleveland did not disclose how they got in — kidnapped Atre, and drove away in his BMW. At about 9 a.m. that morning, his body was found.
“The amount of work that went into this case is tremendous. Hopefully, this will bring some closure to the family,” he said.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart also spoke at the press conference, saying an estimated 3,000 hours went into the investigation, 52 search warrants were issued, and dozens of witnesses were interviewed.
Key to the investigation was a grainy video capturing the men emerging from the alley.
“This case took vigilance. We butted up against a lot of closed doors,” said Hart, noting that there was a large suspect pool.
At the press briefing, Keehn read a statement from Atre’s family, whose names have not been disclosed. “Today is the 233rd day we mourn the loss of our beloved Tushar.”
“Tushar was a loving son, brother, uncle and friend to so many. He moved to Santa Cruz from the East Coast in 1996 and loved this community for 23 years. He was an entrepreneur, who gave so many people their first jobs and created opportunity for many others,”
“He was a surfer, mountain biker, craftsman, guitarist, inventor and lover of nature. We miss him every day, but believe that Tushar’s spirit lives on in us and countless others,” said the family in a statement, thanking the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department.