Judge to rule on whether man accused of killing 4 relatives in West Chester is indigent

State could be forced to pay for expert witnesses if Singh gets his way.

Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Gregory Howard said a man accused of killing four family members in a West Chester Twp. apartment two years ago has a right to have the state pay for expert witnesses if he’s declared indigent.

Howard heard from the Butler County prosecutor’s office and Gurpreet Singh’s defense team Friday morning for a hearing on his request to declare Singh indigent. Howard said he would review the documents that were presented and make a written determination.

Singh, 39, is charged with four counts of aggravated murder for the April 28, 2019, homicides. With specifications of using a firearm and killing two or more persons, Singh faces the death penalty if convicted.

Attorney Neal Schuett said Singh, a truck driver and father of two, has been in the Butler County Jail since he was arrested in August 2019 and unable to work. He said Singh has $270 in his bank account and no other assets.

Schuett said Singh has received money from relatives in India, but “that well is now dry.”

Schuett said the team of Charles H. and Charles M. Rittgers is asking for $50,000 to $60,000 from the state to hire expert witnesses throughout the trial set to begin in 2022. He said the firm isn’t asking for “a blank check.”

He noted that the average cost of a death penalty case in the U.S. is between $500,000 to $2 million. Howard said from his experiences the cost is much lower in Butler County.

Assistant Butler County Prosecutor Josh Muennich said Singh has paid his defense team $250,000. He compared the firm to a Ferrari and now it wants the state to pay for gas.

Singh is accused of killing his wife, Shalinderjit Kaur, 39; his in-laws, Hakikat Singh Pannag, 59, and Parmjit Kaur, 62; and his aunt by marriage, Amarjit Kaur, 58, at their residence on Wyndtree Drive. All died of gunshot wounds.

In a motion filed in July, the defense team requested a hearing to determine if Singh qualifies as an indigent defendant, which would qualify him for public money, if approved by the judge, for a defense.

“Due to my unemployment status, I do not have the financial means to pay for any mitigation investigation, fact investigation, expert witnesses, evaluations of other trial or mitigation phase related services or witnesses,” Singh said in the affidavit. “Additionally, I no longer have financial savings to pay for said evaluations.”

Schuett said the request for public funds does not pertain to attorney fees, but for investigation and experts only.

According to the prosecution’s response, prior to his arrest Singh was employed as an owner-operator of a semi-tractor trailer, typically valued at $75,000 and $175,000, that he had at least one bank account with a balance of $75,052.31 and owned real estate in Indianapolis valued at $330.180.

In July 2018, Singh gifted a woman $20,000 to assist her in purchasing a house in Indianapolis, according to the prosecution.

“In his motion, the defendant does not explain what happened to any of these considerable assets, nor does he make any averments about his current financial status beyond being incarcerated,” Assistant Prosecutor Jon Marshall said in the motion.

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