HAMILTON — Gurpreet Singh, who is accused of the 2019 killings his wife and three family members at their West Chester Twp. home, is scheduled to be back in court Wednesday with his new court-appointed attorneys.
Last month, after a three-week trial with nearly two weeks of testimony and 14 hours of deliberation, Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Howard declared a mistrial when the jury indicated it was hung and did not believe any further deliberations would serve a useful purpose.
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.
Singh’s next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday to set a path for retrial. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
On Nov. 1, Singh’s retained attorneys from Rittgers and Rittgers law firm were permitted to withdraw from his case. Howard then appointed attorneys David Washington and Jeremy Evans, who have specialized training in capital cases, to represent him.
Washington told the Journal-News that he and Evans have met with Singh, who remains under indictment and is being held in the Butler County Jail without bond. Washington said setting a new trial date this week is unlikely.
“It is just the initial hearing. We will probably set some scheduling,” Washington said. “There is a lot of information we have to gather and review and go through. Just a ton of information. I don’t know if we will get a new trial date at this hearing. But it is really up to the judge.”
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser indicated he is filing an affidavit with the Ohio Supreme Court to have Howard taken off the case due to bias. That is being done in accordance with the high court’s guidelines.
At the Nov. 1 hearing Gmoser said Howard should have removed feuding jurors that resulted in a hung jury and requested he “get off the case.”
But Howard declined, telling Gmoser he does not feel he had or has bias.
““I’m not here to make people happy, I am here to follow the law,” Howard said. “I will not be recusing myself from this case.”
Howard declined to replace jurors with alternates knowing two jurors were at odds and not deliberating, the prosecutor said.
“You saw a hung jury coming and you made it happen,” Gmoser said.
The county prosecutor also showed the judge and defense counsel a photo of a sign he says is like one that is on a bookshelf in Howard’s chambers that some find offensive, and “should never see the light of day,” he said. The sign says “(Expletive) in charge of you (expletive) (expletive).”
Howard apologized if he had ever offended anyone.
The prosecution also objected to the Rittgers and Rittgers from the case. The defense team said Singh can no longer afford to pay them as retained counsel.
Howard found Singh indigent after being in jail and unable to work for more than three years, then appointed Washington and Evans.
Prosecutors said Singh murdered his family by shooting them all in the head after a longtime affair he was having and a strained relationship with his in-laws over money from land owned in India.
The defense said 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.
Read more about the mistrial and Singh’s case at journal-news.com.