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June 1, 2020

Sheriff Hart: ‘We have the right people’ in Tushar Atre Murder case

SANTA CRUZ—Dozens of law enforcement officials in two states arrested four men on Tuesday in connection with the Oct. 1 kidnapping and murder of tech executive and Pleasure Point resident Tushar Atre.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said during a Thursday press conference that Kurtis Charters, 22, Joshua Camps, 23, and Stephen Lindsay, 22, were booked into Santa Cruz County Jail charged with murder, kidnapping and robbery—all felonies.

A fourth suspect, Kaleb Charters, 19—Kurtis’s brother—was arrested at a residence in St. Clair Shores, Mich., which lies just north of Detroit. He was expected to be booked into Santa Cruz County Jail on Thursday or Friday on the same charges. 

The men are being held without bail.

On Oct. 1 Atre, 50, founder and CEO of his web marketing firm AtreNet, was kidnapped around 2:30am from his multi-million dollar oceanfront home in Pleasure Point. He was later found shot dead in a BMW SUV on the 24000 block of Soquel San Jose Road, where he owned the property in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

In November the Sheriff’s Office released a surveillance video showing three possible suspects walking near Atre’s home. A group of community members aided the Sheriff’s Office in rounding up $200,000 in reward money for information leading to an arrest in the case. The reward was the largest of its kind in Santa Cruz County history, Sgt. Brian Cleveland said.

A report from the coroner’s office said the cause of death was a gunshot wound. Atre, a well-known surfer in the Pleasure Point community and longtime Santa Cruz resident, also operated a cannabis manufacturing business—Interstitial Systems—on Fern Street in the Harvey West area of Santa Cruz.

In a statement read by Sheriff’s spokeswoman Ashley Keehn, the family said: “Today is the 233rd day we mourn the loss of our beloved Tushar. Tushar was a loving son, brother, uncle and friend. He moved to Santa Cruz from the East Coast in 1996 and loved the community for 23 years. He was an entrepreneur who gave so many people their first job, and created opportunities for so many others. He was a surfer, mountain biker, craftsman, guitarist, inventor and lover of nature. We miss him every day and believe Tushar’s spirit lives on in us and countless others.” 

The family went on to pay deep thanks to the Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives believe that three men entered Atre’s residence and then forced him into his girlfriend’s white BMW SUV before driving away with him in an attempted robbery. Atre was found shot dead about 9 a.m. at his mountain property.

Hart, who offered praise to his investigators, said that detectives served 62 search and arrest warrants and interviewed dozens of witnesses in the seven-and-a half-month investigation.

Cleveland said the motive of the crime was “monetary gain,” but declined to release further details. 

“Through forensic evidence located at the scene, digital evidence found throughout this case, hundreds of interviews that were conducted, the Sheriff’s Office gathered enough evidence to arrest (the suspects),” Cleveland said.

On May 19, 23 detectives executed simultaneous warrants and arrested the four suspects in various locations. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Office in Palmdale, the Burbank Police Department and the St. Clair Shores, Michigan police aided in the operation.

“This case took vigilance, it took resilience, we butted up against a lot of closed doors over the last seven or eight months,” Hart said. “And every time that happened our investigators found somewhere else to go in this case. This case was solved by outstanding police work being supported by a lot of different groups.”

Cleveland said investigators interviewed dozens of Atre’s employees at Interstitial Systems and eventually linked former employees Kaleb Charters and Stephen Lindsay to the crime.

None of the reward money was issued in the case, Cleveland said. He said he could not comment as to why the kidnappers drove Atre to the mountains.

Joshua Camps and Kurtis Charters are from Lancaster, Stephen Lindsay is from Burbank and Kaleb Carters is from St Clair Shores, Mich.

Hart called the evidence gathered in the case “compelling.”

“We have the right people, and now it’s the District Attorney’s job to take this case to the judicial system and prosecute this case the best they can,” he said.

Hart said the case is still being investigated and that his office planned to present the case to the DA Thursday.

Editor’s note: Pajaronian Reporter Todd Guild contributed to this report.

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Tony Nuñez
Managing Editor Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor for five years before entering his current role in 2019. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus, he covers the city, business, housing, entertainment and more.

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