Quadruple homicide trial: Defendant’s cousins testify about night of murders

Second week of West Chester case being presented to a 3-judge panel.

A cousin of Gurpreet Singh who was caring for his three young children on the night in 2019 when Singh is accused of killing his wife and three other members testified Tuesday three hours before the slayings Singh told her to take the children to dinner.

Harmanjot Sekhon, a corporate tax accountant now living in Florida, lived near Singh’s Wyntree Drive apartment in April 2019 with brother Maninder Sekhon, and she often would “hang out’ with Singh’s wife going to temple together and teaching a dance class for children.

On the day of the murders, Harmanjot said she and her brother were at the Singh residence discussing plans for dinner or a movie. She said Singh said, “Take them too” referring to his children.

The Sekhons took the children with them to an Indian restaurant and to a West Chester Twp. UDF for ice cream, then returned to the Wyntree Drive apartment about 9 p.m. when Harmanjot said she called Gurpreet from the the parking lot.

“He said he would pick them up,” she said. Adding she thought it was odd, but they drove the children to their Autumn Woods apartment to watch a movie. About an hour later Maninder left the residence after getting a call. He told her he was going to assist a friend whose truck had broken down.

Harmanjot said she later got a call from her brother who told her to put the children to bed. Soon after the police showed up.

She choked back tears as she pointed to Singh at the defense table and viewed a photos of the shooting victims.

Singh lived at the Sekhon residence with his children for 2 1/2 months after the murders. Harmanjot testified Singh never mentioned he had witnessed the murder of his family.

In May before additional questioning by police, Harmanjot said Singh told her about a house he had bought in Indianapolis.

“He said, ‘Say you knew about it,’” Harmanjot testified. Later Singh told her he planned to move to that Indianapolis house with the children.

When questioned during cross examination about previous conflicting statements made to police, Harmanjot said, “I was afraid. I was afraid of putting him (Singh) in a tough spot.”

Maninder Sekhon’s testimony differed a bit from his sister’s, saying it was a “collective idea” from the family for the Singh children to accompany them for dinner on April 28, 2919. But he too testified Singh never said he witnessed the slaying of his family.

The 41-year-old former truck driver is accused of shooting to death his wife Shalinderjit Kaur, 39; his in-laws, Hakikat Singh Pannag, 59, and Parmjit Kaur, 62; and his aunt-in-law, Amarjit Kaur, 58. inside their Lakefront Apartment on Wyntree Drive.

A three-judge panel comprised of Judges Greg Howard, Greg Stephens and Keith Spaeth are weighing the evidence this time around. Singh’s first trial ended in a hung jury in October 2022.

The defense and prosecution agree Singh was present when four of his family members were shot and killed in their West Chester Twp. apartment, but the prosecutors say he was the killer, and the defense says he was a witness.

On Monday, Hallie Dreyer, now a supervisor at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations, gave results of testing on multiple pieces of evidence collected by West Chester Police Twp., including a red shirt, jeans, socks, a belt Singh was wearing on the night of the slayings.

Shalinderjit’s DNA was found in blood on Singh’s T-shirt and jeans, which were stained with a large amount of blood, Dreyer testified. DNA from the other victims was not found on Singh.

Blood was located on the handle of gun prosecutors say was the murder weapon but was not suitable for testing, according to Dreyer.

The firearm, a Ruger SR9 9 millimeter, was thrown into a pond outside the apartment where it was not recovered for a couple days. That degrades the ability for successful DNA testing, Dreyer said.

None of the shell casings found at the scene tested positive for Singh’s DNA and one swabbing for blood from the patio outside that apartment was Hakikat’s, according to Dreyer.

The panel saw photos of the gun stuffed into a bag with Prosecutor Josh Muennich pointing out the gun was not the murder weapon, but evidence the “defendant had access to the firearm and ammunition at the time for the offense.”

The defense said Singh witnessed the shooting deaths of his family, but did not kill them, alluding to others with criminal backgrounds who had an ongoing land dispute with Hakikat Singh Pannag as suspects.

During opening statements, Assistant Prosecutor Jon Marshall said in addition to victims’ blood, gunshot residue and DNA found on Singh, GPS evidence can place Singh in the parking lot of the apartment complex at 9:03 p.m. That is 39 minutes before the 911 call was placed.

“He is here because he lied. In reality he was there and witnessed the brutality,” Deardorff said. “He probably should not have lied to the police; it does not make him a killer.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

At the time of the homicides, Singh was having an affair with a woman in Indianapolis whom he gave $20,000 cash to purchase a house, bought a car and paid a mortgage, Marshall said, pointing to motive.

Additionally, there was a strained relationship between Singh and his father-in-law with evidence of hostile demands by Singh to Hakikat for money, according to prosecutors.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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