Trial begins for Butler County man charged with killing 4 members of his family

Gurpreet Singh’s capital case will be presented to a 3-judge panel weighing the evidence.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Five years and one day after the shooting deaths of four West Chester Twp residents, the capital murder trial began Monday morning for Gurpreet Singh. Prosecutors told a a three-judge panel all roads lead to Singh as the killer, but his defense lawyers said Singh witnessed the death of his family and pointed to a land dispute with less-than-reputable people as the reason for the slayings.

Singh, a former truck driver, is charged with four counts of aggravated murder for allegedly 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.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

His first trial ended in a mistrial in October 2022 when the jury was deadlocked and did not believe any further deliberations would served a useful purpose. This time with a new defense team, Singh waive his right to a jury trial and opted for three-judge panel of Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Howard, Keith Spaeth and Greg Stephens.

“They were alive until this defendant got home,” Assistant Prosecutor Jon Marshall said during opening statements.

Singh, now 41, chose the time and place for the shootings where he knew his family would be the most vulnerable, shooting Hakikat as he slept, his wife as she prepared tea in the kitchen and the others at they watched television, Marshall said.

He said the victims, who were all shot in the head, had no defensive wounds and there were no reports of people hearing cries for help.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“That is because it was a person they trusted,” said Marshall. “And this defendant made sure his children would not be home.”

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.

The victims’ blood, gunshot residue and DNA were also found on Singh. And GPS evidence can place Singh in the parking lot of the apartment complex at 9:03 p.m., Marshall said. But Singh called 911 at 9:42 p.m., telling dispatchers he had just come home and found his family hurt.

Defense attorney Alexandra Deardorff said Singh was the suspect because he lied to police and they looked no further.

He was present when his family as shot and killed, but he did not do it, according to the defense attorney.

“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.”

Deardorff alluded to an ongoing land dispute Hakikat had with men in India with criminal backgrounds concerning the payments on land under development as the reason for the killings.

She said neighbors reported seeing a dark figure running in the area at the time of the murders, Singh’s bloody footprints littered the scene but not on the balcony where prosecutors say Singh threw the murder weapon in to a pond.

Deardorff said Singh lied to police about his affair, but he had just “witnessed the most horrific event of his life.”

She added Singh admitted to cradling his wounded wife when he found her, accounting for the transfer of blood and DNA.

The judges visited the crime scene Monday at 4562 Wyndtree Drive as the jury did in the first trial. The request was made by the prosecution and includes the parking lot to the west side of the building, the breezeway on the first floor walking up to the apartment.

Just as in a jury trial, the verdict by a three-judge panel in the guilt phase must be unanimous. In the mitigation phase, the verdict among the judges must be unanimous for death, if it is not, the ruling is life without the possibility of parole, 25 years to life or 30 years to life, according to prosecutors.

Singh remains housed in the Butler County Jail without bond.

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