SANTA CRUZ (KPIX 5) — The manhunt for the suspects in the murder of a Santa Cruz tech executive stretched nearly into its third day Wednesday night.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s investigators confirmed the body found in or near the SUV that Tushar Atre was last seen in was in fact the well-known businessman, and that the motive behind his murder was a robbery.
Deputies discovered his body seven hours after he was kidnapped by more than one suspect from his Pleasure Point Drive home Tuesday around 3 a.m.
Investigators also said Wednesday that the property the SUV was abandoned on was owned by Atre. The vehicle, they said, belonged to his girlfriend. However, they said she is not a suspect.
Atre founded and was the CEO of AtreNet, a web marketing and design company.
The long-time Pleasure Point resident also ran a cannabis manufacturing company called Interstitial Systems on Fern Street in Santa Cruz. His friend, Robert Blumberg, said Atre started the company about a year ago.
Atre’s long-distance girlfriend, Rachael Emerlye, is also in the cannabis industry, according to her Instagram account. A video Emerlye posted in August shows the couple having lunch on the east coast while a more recent video shows her in Atre’s beach front property home.
Friends of the 50-year-old took to social media to pay tribute to him. Brent Brookler posted a picture of him with Atre with the caption, “I am heartbroken beyond words at the loss of Tushar Atre, one of my oldest, dearest friends. I will always love you.”
“I just try and take it for face value and how I know Tushar, which is a really happy, kind person,” said Atre’s friend John Ribera.
But one friend, who did not want to be identified, told KPIX 5 that Atre made enemies over his business deals.
His former AtreNet employees described him as “abusive” on Glassdoor.com. Investigators have not said what connection, if any, the suspects may have had with Atre.