SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KRON) — The identities of four suspected killers and how they knew the victim, Tushar Atre, was revealed by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff at a press conference Thursday morning.
The accused killers are: Kurtis Charters, 22, of Lancaster, Calif.; Stephen Nicolas Lindsay, 22, of Burbank, Calif.; Kaleb Charters, 19, of St. Clair Shores, Michigan; Joshua James Camps, 23, of Lancaster, Calif. They were arrested in Michigan and Southern California Tuesday on three charges: Kidnapping, murder and robbery.
“There is compelling evidence against these four people,” Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said as he announced the arrests of the four suspects in connection with the Oct. 1, 2019 murder of 50-year-old tech executive and cannabis entrepreneur Tushar Atre.
Atre was kidnapped here at his oceanfront home off Eastcliff Drive.
“This man was sleeping in his home and these people physically entered his home and kidnapped and murdered him,” Hart said.
Kaleb Charters and Lindsay worked for Atre’s cannabis business, Lt. Brian Cleveland said. None of the men have a prior criminal record and they are not from the Santa Cruz area, investigators said.
“Dozens of people knew and worked for Tushar. Their names came up early,” Cleveland said. “We were able to gather more and more information on this group.”
Among evidence is surveillance video that shows several individuals, on the street near Atre’s home the morning of his murder.
Shot and killed, Atre’s body was found later that day in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Atre was wealthy and most well known for his successful tech company, AtreNet. While he had many AtreNet employees who worked for him, his life crossed paths with Kaleb Charters and Lindsay when he hired them to work for his cannabis manufacturing business, Interstitial Systems. Kaleb Charters and Kurtis Charters are brothers.
On Oct. 1, 2019, Atre was kidnapped by three assailants from his scenic, oceanfront Pleasure Point house. He was forced into his white BMW SUV and was driven to a second property he owned in the Santa Cruz Mountains where he operated the cannabis manufacturing facility. Just hours after he was kidnapped, Atre was found shot to death in the BMW in the 24000 block of Soquel San Jose Road.
The motive was robbery, Cleveland said.
“This was a senseless crime. These people wanted monetary gain,” Cleveland said. “They were there to take monetary items from Tushar. They were armed with a rifle. This was a planned event.”
Cleveland declined to detail what investigators think happened between when Atre was forced from his Pleasure Point home, driven to the second property in the Santa Cruz mountains, and shot.
Investigators also declined to say which suspect they believe pulled the trigger.
During a 7-month-long investigation, deputies served hundreds of search warrants, private citizens raised a $200,000 reward to encourage witnesses to come forward with information, and surveillance video was released showing three men approaching Atre’s house the night of the murder. The men in the video are carrying a large duffel bag and a firearm.
Ultimately, the surveillance video, social media, and tips were not a key factors in identifying the suspects, Cleveland said.
Cracking the case took “vigilance” and “resilience,” Sheriff Hart said.
“We butted up against a lot of closed doors over the last seven or eight months. And every time that happened, our investigators found somewhere else to go with this case. This case was solved by outstanding police work being supported by a lot of different groups. I’m extremely proud of the work our investigation teams did. All of that work has culminated into bringing four people who did a very awful thing to justice,” Hart said.
Kaleb Charters is currently being extradited to California, while the other three arrested men are behind bars in the Santa Cruz County Jail with no bail.
The case will be handed over to the District Attorney’s Office Thursday afternoon for prosecution.