HAMILTON — Attorneys are presenting closing arguments today in the Gurpreet Singh death penalty trial in Butler County Common Pleas Court.
The prosecution rested Monday and the defense rested about 10:30 a.m. today after calling one witness, a blood spatter expert. Singh did not take the stand.
The 40-year-old former truck driver is charged with four counts of aggravated murder for allegedly shooting and killing his wife Shalinderjit Kaur, 39; his in-laws, Hakikat Singh Pannag, 59, and Parmjit Kaur, 62; and his aunt-in-law, Amarjit Kaur, 58, at a West Chester Twp. apartment on April 28, 2019.
On Tuesday, outside the presence of the jury, the defense requested a dismissal of the charges against Singh, arguing the prosecution had not proven its case. Judge Greg Howard denied the dismissal.
The defense is expected to call at least one expert witness on Wednesday.
Prosecutors say Singh murdered his family by shooting them all in the head after a longtime affair and a strained relationship with his in-laws over money from land owned in India.
Jurors heard from the mistress, Navkiran Kaur, now 35, remarried and a recent mother of a new baby.
Kaur said she met Singh in 2011 through her ex-husband who, like Singh, was a semi-truck driver. She and Singh were friendly and eventually they began a romantic sexual relationship. She said she knew Singh was married and had met his wife and children.
The prosecution pointed to thousand of dollars Singh spent on the woman Indianapolis, including $20,000 for Kaur to purchase a house in a neighborhood where he bought a house for himself and a Audi car give to Kaur.
A download of Singh’s cell phone by a forensic specialist showed there were 183 calls or messages between the two between December 2018 and April 28, 2019.
After her divorce, Kaur said Singh asked her if she would marry him if he was single.
The defense says Singh is innocent and the killings were part of a professional hit due to Pannag’s financial woes and a dubious land contract deal in India with the “land mafia.” They say three masked men broke into the apartment with baseball bats and Singh ran for his life. When he returned, everyone was dead.
Singh is the person who called 911 on the night of April 28, 2019 telling dispatchers he came home and found his family bleeding. He waited for West Chester Police to arrive and cooperated when the found him crying and covered with blood in the breezeway of the Wyndtree Drive apartment complex.
Witnesses, including family members who characterized Singh as a loving father and not a violent man, police officers who interviewed for hours and neighbors alerted by his frantic pounding on doors the night of the killings, all said the defendant never said anything about intruders with baseball bats.
In police interview tapes played for the jury, Singh was hysterical and crying two hours after his family was killed and asking for officers to check on his three children.
Singh said that is when he went to work on his semi truck, parked on Muhlhauser Road. As dark set in, Singh said he drove home, stopping at a nearby UDF for gas.
“I come back, I see my mom, I see my wife ... I shake them,” Singh said while crying. He said he tried to get them to talk and drink water, but got not response.
Singh told the detectives he had no problems between his wife or in-laws. When asked if he had been faithful to his wife, Singh answered, “always faithful, no problems.”
Farris asked if Singh had any idea who would harm his family.
“I know me and my family did nothing wrong to anyone,” Singh answers. “If I knew, you would know by now.”
When Farris told Singh it appeared his family was shot, he began to get agitated.
“I want to go home right now ... why didn’t anyone tell me they were shot?” Singh asked when Farris told him they were going to do a gunshot residue test on his hands.
That’s when Farris read Singh his rights and told him they will get a search warrant to take the evidence from his person.
“I want to go to my kids,” Singh said. “I want my lawyer.”
Former FBI Special Agent Kevin Horan, a cellular phone data expert, testified his analysis of data from Singh’s cell phone indicates he was at the Wyndtree Drive apartment at 9:11 p.m. the night of the murders. Singh called 911 about 9:40 p.m.
One of the alternate suspects pointed to by the defense, Maninder Sekhon, testified Monday along with his sister, Harmanjot Sekhon. The brother and sister are Singh’s cousins, but Maninder and Singh referred to each other as brothers.
The defense characterized the Sekhons’ father as a man with legal difficulties in the U.S. and India who tangled with Hakikat Singh Pannag for years over a land dispute.
The Sekhons now live in Florida, but in April 2019, they lived minutes away from Singh. Harmanjot said on the day of the murders, she attended dance class with Singh’s three children and his wife, then returned to the Wyndtree Drive residence. That’s when she and Maninder decided to take the children to an Indian restaurant for dinner and then to UDF for ice cream, she said.
The brother and sister returned to the parking lot on Wyndtree Drive shortly before 9 p.m. to drop off the children. Harmanjot said she talked by phone to Singh and he told her he would pick up the children at their apartment. Harmanjot said the children then went to her apartment and began watching a movie. They never when home.
Harmanjot said Singh and his children lived with them for weeks after the murders. Singh was not indicted until August for the murders.
Maninder’s testimony mirrored his sister’s, but he was asked pointed questions about his and his father’s possible involvement in the murders.
He said his father is a real estate developer and not part of the “land mafia” in India. In fact, he said until this trial he has never heard the term. He said he is not involved in anyway in the murder and neither is his father.
During cross examination, Maninder said he’s in a tough spot testifying and agreed that Singh loved his kids and would never kill his family.