, a successful tech-executive-turned-cannabis-entrepreneur had a multimillion-dollar home on the California coast, where he spent his free time surfing. His dream house turned into a crime scene in October 2019 – grainy surveillance video from that time shows he was attacked and kidnapped near his home. He was later found stabbed and fatally shot on his cannabis farm in the Santa Cruz mountains.
The two crime scenes provided few clues, though guests inside Tushar’s home told detectives they heard the intruders demanding to know the location and combination of his safe.
Investigators from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office did have that grainy surveillance video, which captured what happened on Tushar’s street from the momententered the neighborhood and walked toward his house. Minutes later, Tushar is seen running and then is tackled. He is repeatedly stabbed and eventually pushed into a BMW the suspects stole from his driveway, before they all drive away.
Who were those figures, and why would they want Tushar Atre dead? As “48 Hours” contributor Tracy Smith reports, it’s a mystery that investigators would spend more than seven months unraveling.
WHAT HAPPENED ON PLEASURE POINT DRIVE?
In the hours after Tushar Atre went missing on October 1, 2019, his tight-knit Pleasure Point community was on edge.
Reporter Maria Cid Medina covered the story for the Bay Area’s local CBS station KPIX.
Maria Cid Medina: We started knocking on his neighbors’ doors. … Everyone was spooked. You could really see the fear in people’s eyes when you talked to them.
Who would target the 50-year-old tech exec-turned-cannabis entrepreneur, and would they be back for anyone else? The crime scene provided few clues.
Tracy Smith: You’ve got a missing businessman, a pool of blood, missing car, what are you thinking?
Steve Cercone: What I would be thinking … is that … This is a very unusual case, and potentially a very, very serious felony has just occurred.
Steve Cercone is a former California police chief and a “48 Hours” consultant who’s reviewed the case.
Tracy Smith: Was there anyone else in the house at the time when he was kidnapped?
Steve Cercone: There were several people in the house.
Among them one of Tushar’s employees who heard a commotion around 3 a.m.
Mary Fulginiti: One witness … hears three different voices, one of them is Tushar’s and the other are two unidentified males.
Attorney Mary Fulginiti is a former federal prosecutor and also a “48 Hours” consultant.
Mary Fulginiti: He hears Tushar screaming at times.
Steve Cercone: He heard the suspects tell him to get on the ground …
Mary Fulginiti: “Put your hands behind your back.” “Where is the safe and what’s the combination?”
Steve Cercone: Tushar pleading with them … “how can we make this right?”
Tracy Smith: Tushar knew these guys?
Steve Cercone: It seems like … he knew these guys.
The employee in Tushar’s house called 911 at 3:34 a.m., half an hour after the attackers had driven off with Tushar in a white BMW belonging to his girlfriend Rachael Emerlye.
Tracy Smith: So, Rachael’s BMW’s missing, where’s Rachael?
Steve Cercone: Apparently Rachael was back east in … Massachusetts when this happened.
Rachael says she learned about Tushar’s kidnapping when investigators called her.
Rachael Emerlye: I was trying to piece together what this all meant over the phone. “I was just there. What do you mean? He didn’t seem like he was in danger.”
Investigators learned Rachael wasn’t just Tushar’s girlfriend, she was also his partner in the cannabis business, which they had started together after they met in 2017.
Rachael Emerlye: They asked me straightaway “Where’s the pot farm?”
The “pot farm” was 60 acres of open land nestled in the Santa Cruz mountains known as the Summit property, where Tushar could legally grow cannabis for research. He was planning to manufacture medicinal cannabis products.
Claire Machado: Who would kidnap him? … You know, who would take this guy?
Claire Machado, Tushar’s right hand in his cannabis business, learned the news about the disappearance from Rachael.
Claire Machado: I called his phone. I said, “wherever you are, we’ll find you.”
Rachael Emerlye: I had such hope. Every (crying) second I held on to that, for hours and hours.
Around 9:30 that morning — six hours after Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies had responded to the 911 call from Tushar’s Pleasure Point address — investigators located the white BMW 14 miles away at his Summit property. There was blood on the outside and inside of the vehicle. And 20 to 30 yards away, they found the bloody body of Tushar Atre.
Steve Cercone: Face down, and his hands were handcuffed in the back with flex-ties … An apparent gunshot wound to the back of the head … He had been stabbed multiple times. … and nearby they also found five shell casings from a .223 rifle. … That’s an assault rifle.
Tracy Smith: Did it look like an inside job?
Steve Cercone: That’s what … I’m sure was running through … the investigators’ minds … how would they know where to go? They found him at his house … brought him up to his secondary property. So … they knew Mr. Atre.
Nothing about the kidnapping or the murder indicated this was a random act, says Cercone.
Tracy Smith: It had to have been someone close to him?
Steve Cercone: It appears that it was definitely someone close to him.
Rachael was on her way to catch a flight back to Santa Cruz when she got the news that Tushar was dead.
Rachael Emerlye: Worst phone call of my life (crying) … When you’re in your car you can just scream.
But detectives had more questions for Rachael as soon as she got to Santa Cruz.
Tracy Smith: Pretty standard to talk to the girlfriend?
Mary Fulginiti: Oh, absolutely.
Rachael Emerlye: I think they wanted to know … “are you happy with this person?”
It was complicated.
Rachael Emerlye: It’s definitely hard to be in a relationship and run a business together.
For the past six months, Rachael and Tushar had been living on opposite coasts while Rachael says she was working on expanding their medicinal cannabis business. They were focused on getting the Food and Drug Administration to approve their cannabis product.
Rachael Emerlye: We’d gotten it to the point where we felt like this is the product we were trying to make.
The couple had met two years earlier while she was renting one of his many Santa Cruz properties.
Rachael Emerlye: He … came in and asked, “do you wanna go surfing?” … and beginner’s luck, caught a wave … and he was like, “yeah, yeah! Amazing, you’re amazing.”
And Tushar was intrigued by Rachael’s background in the world of cannabis, where her expertise was in agriculture and business development.
Rachael Emerlye: It just seemed natural that he would pick my brain about my industry.
They ultimately moved in together into his multimillion-dollar waterfront house. And Rachael says she invested her entire inheritance — about $300,000 — in their new cannabis venture.
Rachael Emerlye: Tushar helped through my mom passing. When you see that side of somebody, you can be sure they love you.
But mixing love and business came with some risks. Rachael’s contributions to the enterprise weren’t documented on paper, and that, says Claire, become a source of friction in the relationship.
Claire Machado: She didn’t have anything to show the level of investment, and he acknowledged that with me.
And Claire says having informal agreements wasn’t unusual for Tushar.
Claire Machado: He played hard and fast and wasn’t really good at documenting it in writing.
Still, Claire and Rachael say Tushar was working on adding Rachael’s name to the business, and that things were going well.
Rachael Emerlye: Tushar always had the intentions for us to have written agreements. He was very kind to me in business.
Claire Machado: Rachael was still in love with him, she wasn’t that pissed off. She wanted to work it out with him.
Now both women were trying to figure out why anyone would want Tushar dead.
Claire Machado: Everyone loved Tushar … most everyone loved Tushar.
Claire Machado: Rachael had expressed to me … that Tushar was receiving threatening phone calls.
Steve Cercone: This was a whodunit from the start.
Maria Cid Medina: There were not immediate suspects …. you got a sense that investigators did not have any leads in this case.
But there was one lead — grainy surveillance video of three figures approaching Tushar’s home.
A LONG LIST OF POTENTIAL SUSPECTS
Maria Cid Medina: What set the tone about this story is that there were a lot of rumors … We had to sift what was truth and what was rumor.
While investigators weren’t naming any suspects in Tushar’s case, rumors persisted about Rachael.
Maria Cid Medina: That was our first question, was Rachael connected to his murder?
Claire Machado: I feel the most sorry for Rachael. She’s had to grieve … as well as defend herself.
MARIA MEDINA | KPIX NEWS REPORT: Investigators did not say what connection, if any, the suspects had with Atre. They did say, however, that his girlfriend is not a suspect.
Tracy Smith: So, it was easy to rule her out pretty early on.
Mary Fulginiti: I think so.
Mary Fulginiti: If anything, she loses more with him being deceased than she does with him being alive.
Maria Cid Medina: You got this sense that investigators did not have any idea who his killers were. Three weeks later … investigators announced that there would be a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
But as the weeks turned into months, and after several appeals by Sheriff Jim Hart for the public’s help, the investigation seemed to stall.
Maria Medina: There was a desperate plea to the public to find these killers.
In mid-November, nearly a month-and-a-half after Tushar was murdered, the sheriff’s office raised the reward to $150,000, and this time they asked for help in identifying three suspects seen in the eerie surveillance video as they approached Tushar’s house moments before the attack.
Maria Cid Medina: It was the first time that we ever heard investigators had … any sort of evidence from that scene.
One of the three shadowy figures, investigators say, is carrying an assault rifle.
Tracy Smith: What kind of criminals walk through a residential neighborhood with an assault rifle in plain sight?
Steve Cercone: Yeah, not real wise. … at any moment they could have been spotted.
Maria Cid Medina: You felt goosebumps, because you knew what was going to happen next.
But the video didn’t generate any new leads, deepening the mystery around the murder, Tushar, his business dealings and the people who worked for him. Reporter Maria Cid Medina dug deeper into his background.
Maria Cid Medina: Tushar had a different side to him, a darker side. I started to search online after his neighbor said that he had made enemies … connected to his business dealings.
There were accusations from Tushar’s investors that he was dealing in the cannabis black market, though Claire insists he was doing everything by the book.
Claire Machado He wasn’t a gang-related mafia-related drug lord kind of a guy.
Even if Tushar wasn’t a mob boss, he had quite a reputation as a bad boss – and not just in the cannabis business, according to online reviews by ex-employees.
Maria Cid Medina: I discovered on Glassdoor.com, his company, AtreNet. … One employee wrote, “The CEO, Tushar Atre, doesn’t value anyone but himself.” … Another … wrote, “Total abusive nightmare. The worst employment experience of my life. You’ve been warned. Run away now.”
Even friends told investigators the charismatic businessman enjoyed being confrontational.
Claire Machado: He challenged his employees to try to always do their best. And even though that was tough, I appreciated that about him a lot.
But not everyone appreciated it.
Mary Fulginiti: He had a lotta people apparently in his past that had it out for him … people that had rammed into his vehicle, people that had taken his property and … destroyed it.
Steve Cercone: A lot of it had to do with money. Money that was not paid.
Investigators learned Tushar was notorious for withholding people’s pay. When he did it to Claire, she quit.
Claire Machado: He came and found me and hired me back. And at that point, he was a lot nicer to me.
Claire says she was helping him change his management style.
Claire Machado: He wanted loyalty, and you might get loyalty through fear, but not the same kind of loyalty that you get through love … I believe he learned that in the end, and he was trying to make a number of things right.
Rachael Emerlye: He would come up with these challenges for himself … and he said, “I’m on day 13 of no yelling” (giggles).
As the list of Tushar’s disgruntled employees and associates grew, so did the potential suspects. From investors who’d poured over $4 million into his cannabis company and were unhappy with the way Tushar was managing the funds to a subcontractor with whom he’d had a heated argument the night of the murder, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s detectives would have to talk to them all.
Tracy Smith: As investigators started digging and talking to people, were there any names that kept coming up?
Steve Cercone: Two of the names that kept popping up were Stephen Lindsay and Kaleb Charters. …who didn’t work for him very long.
Tracy Smith: Because they had a beef with him?
Steve Cercone: They had a significant beef with him over a payment.
Kaleb Charters, 19 and Stephen Lindsay, 21, can be seen in video working on Tushar’s Summit property in August of 2019, just a couple months before Tushar’s murder.
Tracy Smith: What did employees say about them?
Steve Cercone: They said they were not very happy with Mr. Atre. … apparently, he’d… in front of other people, which … if that were the case, they were most likely humiliated.
Tracy Smith: Tushar actually made them do push-ups as, like, a — punishment?
Mary Fulginiti: Yeah. … And then ultimately doesn’t pay ’em.
Steve Cercone: After they received the check, the check had been canceled.
In December 2019, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s detectives traveled to Las Vegas where Kaleb Charters and Stephen Lindsay had moved, to question them.
Mary Fulginiti: During that interview … Lindsay did say … He wanted to get into a fight with this guy … He wanted the money that Tushar owed him … And he actually wanted to get into a physical altercation, and he told the police this.
Steve Cercone: He finally paid them again. But this time, he paid them only partially.
Lindsay was shown the grainy surveillance video of the three suspects and denied knowing them. Both men said they hadn’t even been back to Santa Cruz since they stopped working for Tushar in late August.
Tracy Smith: Did they make it sound like, oh, the beef was all over?
Steve Cercone: Yeah. They said … they had … settled it and they were not gonna work for him anymore.
Detectives left Las Vegas without arrests, and by January 29, 2020, the sheriff increased the reward again, to $200,000.
SHERIFF JIM HART: Someone out there knows something about this case, and we hope that the … information we’re releasing today jogs their memory …
Investigators also shared the kidnappers’ suspected route from Tushar’s home to the Summit property.
Maria Cid Medina: It seemed that they were desperate for any clues from the public.
But what police weren’t sharing with the public was additional surveillance video that captured what happened on Pleasure Point Drive that night.
Maria Cid Medina: Tushar did put up a fight. And at some point he was able to get away from his kidnappers.
FOLLOWING THE DIGITAL TRAIL
While investigators had only released to the public a small portion of the surveillance video showing those shadowy figures approaching Tushar’s home, there was a lot more video from that night they were analyzing for clues.
Steve Cercone [watching the surveillance video]: As you’ll see here, Mr. Atre breaks from the driveway, and he runs. He’s pursued by one of the suspects. He tackles him right here. And then as you can see … there’s a struggle.
A few moments after his attackers leave him, Tushar somehow finds the strength to pull himself up and make one more dash for freedom – until one of the suspects stops him again.
Moments later, the BMW appears and Tushar is pushed into the front seat before the car speeds away.
For months, investigators analyzed the video and footage from other cameras near the crime scene and along the route to the Summit property where Tushar’s body was found.
Finally, more than seven months later, arrests.
MARIA CID MEDINA | KPIX NEWS REPORT: Breaking news out of Santa Cruz County, where investigators just announced they’ve made several arrests in the kidnapping and murder of a tech CEO.
On May 19, 2020, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office had four suspects in custody.
SHERIFF JIM HART [to reporters]: I’ve been in this job for 32 years. I can tell you there is compelling evidence against these four people. We have the right people.
LT. BRIAN CLEVELAND [to reporters]: 23-year-old Joshua Camps … 22-year-old Kurtis Charters … 22-year-old Steven Lindsay … and 19-year-old Kaleb Charters.
That’s right – the same Stephen Lindsay and Kaleb Charters who had worked for Tushar and admitted they once had a bitter pay dispute with him. Remember, detectives had interviewed the pair just two months after the murder.
LT. BRIAN CLEVELAND [to reporters]: Their names had come up early. And then as we went through the investigation, we gathered more and more information on this group.
Suspects Kurtis and Kaleb Charters were brothers and Lindsay was their brother-in-law. Joshua Camps was a friend.
Maria Cid Medina: These were four young guys.
All four suspects charged with murder, kidnapping, and robbery.
None of them had a criminal history. In fact, Stephen Lindsay and Kaleb Charters were members of the Army Reserve. At the time of the arrest, Lindsay, who goes by Nick, was attending a city college in Los Angeles, along with Kurtis, where they were producing student videos. Kaleb was in Michigan, and Josh Camps was about to get married.
But if Lindsay and Charters were on Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s radar back in December, why had it taken another five months to arrest them?
SHERIFF JIM HART [to reporters]: When you look at the evidence that we had on October 1st and October 2nd, we had a murder scene … we had a home invasion-kidnapping scene in Pleasure Point, and we had a really grainy video. That was it.
But at a preliminary hearing in October 2021, prosecutors would set out to prove those shadowy figures in the grainy surveillance video were their suspects. Cameras were not allowed at the proceedings.
The state had to convince a judge they had enough evidence to try Stephen Lindsay, Joshua Camps, and Kaleb and Kurtis Charters for robbing, kidnapping and ultimately murdering Tushar Atre. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office laid out their monthslong, meticulous investigation, piece by piece.
Steve Cercone: I think the … evidence here … is very compelling. And the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, the investigators did an amazing job.
Tracy Smith: How important was digital evidence in this case?
Steve Cercone: Digital evidence may make this case.
Early on, detectives had identified a blue sedan. It was seen on several surveillance cameras on October 1, 2019, heading to Tushar’s home before the abduction and then minutes later heading towards the Summit property. That piece seemed to fall into place when they learned Josh Camps owned a blue Camry. And sure enough, when they showed up to arrest him …
Steve Cercone: The blue Camry was also there.
Tracy Smith: The car that got them to Santa Cruz.
Believing they had the suspects’ ride parked in his driveway, investigators also had a search warrant for the rest of Camps’ house — not knowing just how much clearer the picture was about to become.
Tracy Smith: What did investigators find when they searched Josh Camps’ house?
Steve Cercone: Yeah. They found a lot of — lotta firearms. They found some flex-cuffs. … And they had the same … manufacture date that were on the wrists of Mr. Atre.
Tracy Smith: Did any of these guns match the murder weapon?
Steve Cercone: They did not.
Even though Camps didn’t have the murder weapon, investigators say he did have ammunition that matched the spent rounds found near Tushar’s body.
And prosecutors revealed investigators had also found other forensic evidence.
Mary Fulginiti: What we learned … from the preliminary hearing is that there were two prints — palm prints of Kurtis Charters’ that were found on the BMW.
Tracy Smith: And that’s it?
Mary Fulginiti: That’s all the forensic … evidence that was introduced at the preliminary hearing.
Placing Kurtis in the BMW was a start. But needing more, investigators turned to the suspects’ cell phones.
They didn’t find any data for Stephen Lindsay for the night of the murder.
Tracy Smith: So why don’t we have Stephen Lindsay’s cell phone data?
Steve Cercone: Yeah. So, the investigators found out that Stephen Lindsay — his phone had been shut off from the 27th of September till October 5th. So that’s about eight days. And I don’t know anybody … in their early 20s that would have their cell phone off for eight days.
When detectives talked to Lindsey in Las Vegas back in December 2019, he told them he was home the night of the murder. But in a group text from that night, Lindsay’s wife suggests she didn’t know where he was.
Steve Cercone: She was texting Stephen, her husband, and her two brothers, Kaleb and Kurtis, for hours, wondering where they were. … That shows the three of them were likely together because she is reaching out to all of them together.
Investigators hoped cell tower data for Kaleb and Kurtis Charters, as well as Josh Camps, would help connect the dots. They were able to plot their locations on a map, providing the routes each device took. And there it was.
Steve Cercone [pointing to map]: So, this is the surveillance camera showing … the Camry going towards Mr. Atre’s house at Pleasure Point Drive.
Then, at around 2:48 a.m., their phones ping off a tower covering Tushar’s neighborhood at exactly the point those figures were caught on camera emerging from the alley heading towards Tushar’s house.
Mary Fulginiti: That was critical. That actually puts these individuals, or at least their phones, in the right location, in the right place to be able to start to corroborate this video that really shows a large chunk of the crime.
At the same time, Kaleb Charters’ phone and the blue sedan are seen traveling away from Tushar’s house towards the Summit property.
Tracy Smith: So now we’re in a different location. This is on the way up to Summit?
Steve Cercone: Yeah … now the detectives … have placed Kaleb’s phone — on the way to the Summit right here … off of Highway 17— in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Followed 17 minutes later by Kurtis Charters’ and Joshua Camps’ phones and the white BMW carrying the stabbed and gravely injured Tushar.
Tracy Smith: What do we see here?
Steve Cercone: So now you have all three cell phones of the suspects placed in an area … around the Summit property. That’s pretty clear. At 3:36, 3:35, 3:36 in the morning on the day of — the murder.
The cell phone data bolstered the investigation theory that Kaleb Charters had dropped off his codefendants and waited for them at the Summit property. And that Kurtis Charters and Joshua Camps had participated in the kidnapping at Pleasure Point Drive. But there was no direct evidence placing Lindsay at either crime scene.
Mary Fulginiti: There’s no eyewitnesses, there’s no fingerprints, there’s no DNA, there’s no physical evidence linking him to the crime.
But investigators believed that video showed what Stephen Lindsay had done.
A PERFECT TARGET?
Rachael Emerlye: He had a really bright flame … I don’t know why anybody would want to dull that.
Tushar’s flame might still be burning brightly, if not for a chance encounter less than two months before his murder that had led Stephen Lindsay and Kaleb Charters directly to the successful CEO’s waterfront doorstep.
Claire Machado: He had the dream beach house, he was a surfer, he was driving a Porsche … anybody looking at that lifestyle who didn’t have it could be easily jealous of it.
Tushar had hired Lindsay and Charters after one of them had made a telemarketing call to one of Tushar’s associates.
Steve Cercone: It was very random. … And they came up to Santa Cruz. And … he let them … into his home.
That’s when former police chief Steve Cercone says they got a glimpse of Tushar’s lavish lifestyle.
Steve Cercone: They got close enough to him to learn a lot about his operation, about his wealth.
And in Tushar Atre, the suspects had found a perfect target.
Tracy Smith: He actually gave them a tour of his home?
Steve Cercone: Yeah … and showed ’em where his bedroom was.
The bedroom was where Tushar kept his safe, and in it, say investigators, more than $80,0000 in cash.
Steve Cercone: This is very unusual. And very risky.
Tracy Smith: What does that say about Tushar Atre?
Steve Cercone: I think Tushar was pretty naïve at times.
Was that safe one of the reasons they targeted Tushar that night?
Steve Cercone: This is the alleyway that they came down …
If the idea was to rob the millionaire, the plan had gone horribly awry. At the preliminary hearing, the prosecution would lay out their case, playing that shocking surveillance video. Investigators say the three shadowy figures walking towards Tushar’s home that night were Stephen Lindsay, Kurtis Charters, and Joshua Camps – seen in the video, they say, carrying an assault rifle. Cameras had been rolling from the moment they entered Tushar’s neighborhood on Pleasure Point Drive.
Tracy Smith [walking with Cercone on Pleasant Point Drive and pointing to a security camera]: Down this way … So, the first camera … that captures them is right over there?
Steve Cercone: Right. Right.
What happens next is chilling.
Steve Cercone [pointing to monitor with surveillance video]: Right here is 70 yards from there to there.
Steve Cercone: Mr. Atre is gonna sprint from his driveway … he’s gonna run down Pleasure Point … as fast as he can go with his hands tied behind his back. And he gets tackled.
Tracy Smith: Who’s that?
Steve Cercone: That right there is … Stephen Lindsay … This is a brutal, brutal attack.
According to the investigators, Lindsay is the first to attack Tushar.
Steve Cercone: And if you watch the suspect’s hands, it looks like he’s stabbing him repeatedly.
Tracy Smith: Yikes.
Steve Cercone: With a poking motion.
Mary Fulginiti: And then you start to see … a little bit of a dark substance, which … later they were able to determine was blood.
Next, say investigators, comes Josh Camps.
Mary Fulginiti: You see Josh Camps running, handling something to Stephen Lindsay. Stephen Lindsay runs back to the house.
Tracy Smith: What do you think was handed off between Stephen and Josh?
Mary Fulginiti: If I had to guess I would say … keys to the white BMW.
Seconds later, investigators say, after Lindsay runs back toward the house, the BMW headlights come on as Camps continues the attack.
Steve Cercone: [describing the surveillance video]: Camps then holds him down and … Now he looks like he’s stabbing him directly, viciously
Mary Fulginiti: Jabbing him and jabbing him. … And then Stephen Lindsay comes driving vehicle, which we end up learning was the white BMW.
As the glistening pool of blood gets bigger, the BMW pulls up.
Steve Cercone: Now, watch what Mr. Atre does. This is —in a survival mode right here. In really good shape.
Tracy Smith: Oh my gosh —
Steve Cercone: He gets up. He’s handcuffed, pool of blood there, and he runs.
Wounded and bleeding, Tushar attempts to get away a second time, but investigators say Kurtis Charters goes after him.
Tracy Smith [pointing to surveillance video]: And this is Kurtis?
Steve Cercone: This is … Kurtis, yeah, running after him.
Tracy Smith: Tushar was fighting for his life.
Steve Cercone: Yeah … I’m sure he was doing everything he could to get away from these guys.
Mary Fulginiti: They go after him with the vehicle this time. …And … Kurtis is the one that ultimately grabs him and puts him in the car. And then they all drive away.
About six hours later, Tushar’s body would be found 14 miles away at his Summit property, riddled with stab wounds and a fatal wound gunshot wound to the head.
At the time of the arrests, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s investigators announced that Tushar’s kidnapping and murder was a robbery gone wrong.
LT. BRIAN CLEVELAND [to reporters]: These people wanted monetary gain and took advantage of the situation.
But the brutality of the case suggests there may be more to the motive.
Steve Cercone: This is a very, very curious case … a lot of it doesn’t make a lotta sense.
Tracy Smith: If this was a robbery, why chase him, tackle him, and take him away?
Mary Fulginiti: If this is truly just a simple robbery and all you care about is the money in the house and nothing else, once he runs away you let him go. You grab the money then you get out of dodge.
But as investigators would later learn, what set in motion the attack that night was anything but simple.
Tracy Smith: This is about more than just money.
Mary Fulginiti: It’s definitely about more than just money.
WHO SHOT TUSHAR ATRE — AND WHY?
The harrowing surveillance video of Tushar Atre fighting for his life gave investigators compelling evidence – a record of what happened in the street.
But what happened off camera? The biggest questions: Who shot Tushar? And why?
The answers may come from Kaleb Charters, Kurtis Charters and Josh Camps. They started talking the day they were arrested. But Stephen Lindsay never said a word.
Tracy Smith: What was Kaleb’s role in this?
Steve Cercone: His role, he admitted was to drop them off … and he went up to the Summit property.
Kaleb Charters’ admission he was the driver matches his cell data and that surveillance video of the blue car heading in the direction of the Summit property. With their ride 14 miles away, Steve Cercone suggests the group had planned to steal a car all along.
Tracy Smith: That they knew … they could take that BMW.
Steve Cercone: That they knew that they could take that BMW.
Kaleb Charters’ interview provided investigators his version of how the robbery was supposed to play out.
Mary Fulginiti: Kaleb’s interview actually talks about the plan. And he has two plans, a Plan A and a Plan B. So, Plan A … they didn’t expect … Tushar to be there.
Plan A involved using the front door code to Tushar’s house that Kaleb said he remembered after working for him months earlier and collecting all money and valuables they could find. Plan B, if Tushar was there, involved forcing their way into his bedroom safe — the one investigators later found held over $80,000 in cash. Kaleb Charters also revealed how they would open that safe.
Mary Fulginiti: The muscle was Josh Camps. Josh came armed with a weapon. Why? … Well, according to Kaleb, Well, to scare him, in case he was there. Just to scare him, so that he could open the safe.
Tushar was home – and Kurtis Charters admits he restrained him.
Mary Fulginiti: He admits, and he takes responsibility for, you know, putting the flex-cuffs on him, and gagging him.
But once they took Tushar up to the Summit property, Kaleb and Kurtis Charters made it clear shooting Tushar was never part of the plan. In his interview, Josh Camps initially tried to pin the shooting on the others.
Steve Cercone: It’s very apparent that Josh, at the beginning and for quite a while, kept lying to them … Josh then decreased his lying … and eventually he started to fess up.
He makes what amounts to the most damning admission of them all.
Mary Fulginiti: He ultimately admits to shooting Tushar, and to killing him.
Tracy Smith: And he ultimately tells investigators where the weapon is?
Mary Fulginiti: Correct.
But he said there was a reason he pulled the trigger — an act of mercy.
Mary Fulginiti: He says it was a mercy killing, though. He doesn’t say it was an intentional killing. It was one that, you know, they did because they thought he was gonna die. …because he was bleeding so heavily.
Mary Fulginiti: A mercy killing is not a defense to murder. And, you know, he still pointed the gun at his head, and he killed him.
And at the preliminary hearing, the lawyers for Kaleb Charters, Kurtis Charters and Stephen Lindsay jumped on that statement. They argued that their clients never meant to harm Tushar during the robbery — that it all went horribly wrong when Tushar tried to run away, and that Joshua Camps acted alone. But Mary Fulginiti says, even with Camps admitting to being the shooter, the other defendants aren’t off the hook.
Mary Fulginiti: They’re charged with what they call felony murder, which means if a murder is committed during the commission of a felony, and here we have a couple of them — we’ve got robbery and kidnapping, then under certain circumstances, all of those involved can also be … held responsible for the murder. And that’s — that’s critical here.
And Kurtis Charters shared with investigators that this might have been more than a robbery from the start.
Mary Fulginiti: What he did say … is that he did think that Stephen Lindsay wanted to kill Tushar, and that he thought Stephen Lindsay had a vendetta.
Tracy Smith: When we talk about motive, does this story of Tushar humiliating Stephen Lindsay and Kaleb Charters point to motive?
Mary Fulginiti: Yes. Definitely.
Fulginiti speculates it goes back to Tushar making enemies of the two former military men.
Mary Fulginiti: With regard to Lindsay, he was pretty upset with the way Tushar treated him.
Mary Fulginiti: When you look at … the military … respect is a large component of how they lead their lives … Tushar humiliated them … he made them do push-ups … He paid them and then withdrew payment … he is feeding into that disrespect … and mistreatment.
At the end of the preliminary hearing, the judge decided all four suspects should face trial on all counts. “48 Hours” reached out to their attorneys; they declined to comment. All four suspects have pleaded not guilty.
If convicted they could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
They didn’t get the $80,000 in the safe. Based on their statements, they got a few thousand dollars that they found in the house, a camera and a guitar … for allegedly taking a man’s life.
Maria Cid Medina: People are looking forward to this trial starting. And they want to see justice served, especially Tushar’s friends.
Justice, whatever that might look like, will never be enough to make up for all Tushar Atre had left to give.
Rachael Emerlye: His charisma was infectious. … It’s insane. It’s not meant to be understood.
An entrepreneur and an adventurer with so many mountain trails left to climb, waves still to surf, and melodies yet to strum on his guitar.
Rachael Emerlye is suing Tushar Atre’s estate to recoup what she says is her rightful share of the cannabis business.
Produced by Gayane Keshishyan Mendez and Richard Fetzer and Chuck Stevenson. Michelle Fanucci is the development producer. Lauren Turner Dunn is the associate producer. Ken Blum, Joan Adelman, Wini Dini, Grayce Arlotta-Berner and Diana Modica are the editors. Anthony Batson is the senior broadcast producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.