West Chester quadruple homicide trial: Police sergeant, coroner testify

Defendant Gurpreet Singh faces death penalty if convicted.

HAMILTON — The jury in the trial of Gurpreet Singh in Butler County Common Pleas Court heard from the prosecution’s first witness Thursday, a West Chester Police sergeant who was first on the scene of the April 28, 2019 quadruple homicide.

Sgt. Michael Bruce’s body camera gave the jury a graphic reel of that Sunday night when Singh’s wife Shalinderjit Kaur, 39; his in-laws, Hakikat Singh Pannag, 59, and Parmjit Kaur, 62; and his aunt-in-law, Amarjit Kaur, 58, were found shot to death in their residence on Wyndtree Drive.

The 40-year-old defendant is charged with four counts of aggravated murder. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

ExploreJuror passes out during Butler County quadruple homicides trial

Bruce said he and two other officers responded to the apartment complex about 9:50 p.m., parked their cars and ran to the address. Police body camera video shows Singh, bloody, in a red shirt, standing in the breezeway.

“Down on the ground,” an officer says. Singh is crying and saying he “doesn’t know what happened.”

Guns drawn, Bruce and others go through the apartment, where glimpses of the bloody victims are visible.

“Significant amount of blood,” Bruce says in the video as he opens the door. Then he starts finding multiple victims, saying, “gunshot wounds to the head.”

Bruce said he did not see any vehicles or people leaving the apartment complex as he responded, and Singh never told them people had broken into the residence and he ran from the apartment after seeing one of the masked men with a baseball bat.

The defense said during opening statements Wednesday that others are responsible for the slayings tied to a land feud in India and financial problems of Hakikat Singh Pannag. Singh saw the three men break in, fled, and when he returned, the family was dead, the defense told the jury.

During cross examination, Bruce said he did not observe comings and goings from all the entrances to the apartment complex.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Coroner testifies

The second witness to testify Thursday was Dr. Karen Looman, a forensic pathologist and Hamilton County deputy, who performed autopsies on the victims.

Family member chose not to be in the courtroom for the testimony and see the autopsy photos, which are graphic. Before court, the family noted Thursday would have been Shalinderjit Kaur’s 43rd birthday.

The trial was paused briefly when a juror had a medical emergency during Looman’s testimony and while an autopsy photo of gunshot wounds were shown. The male juror recovered and the trial continued.

Looman said Parmjit Kaur suffered five gunshots. She had no blunt force trauma.

Singh stared straight ahead while Looman testified about his wife’s autopsy, as the photos were displayed.

Shalinderjit Kaur had three gunshot wounds to the head, Looman said, pointing to a diagram. She was dressed in a striped top with her face marred in blood. The doctor said she did not suffer any trauma other than the gunshot wounds.

Hakikat Singh Pannag, who police say was was shot in his bed, was shot six times in the head, Looman testified. Some of the shots were very close to his eyes. His body arrived at the morgue wrapped in a comforter.

Amarjit Kaur suffered two gunshot wounds to the head, according to Looman.

All four victims’ death were homicides, and they died of “died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head,” Looman said.

Prosecutors say Singh is guilty of the homicides, while Singh and his attorneys maintain his innocence, saying another person or persons are responsible for the mass family shooting.

Defense Attorney Charlie Rittgers said in opening statements Wednesday that Pannag, his client’s father-in-law, had money troubles that had him in a land contract in India with men who were crooks. There was a long fight in India over a lawsuit regarding the land, which is worth millions, and one of the men involved in the dispute was in Cincinnati at the time of the murders.

Singh, the father of three young children who was a self-employed truck driver running his own company before his arrest, is being held without bond in the Butler County Jail. He is a native of India but has been a United States citizen since 2009.

Hotel rooms have been booked and security arranged if the jury should require sequestration. By law, in a death penalty case, the jury must be sequestered during deliberations. If the defendant is convicted they are also required to be sequestered while deliberating a penalty recommendation following the mitigation phase.

If Singh is convicted, the jury will consider recommendation of one of five penalties, including death, life in prison without parole, 20 years to life, 25 years to life or 30 years to life. It is up to the judge to decide whether or not to follow the jury’s recommendation and ultimately impose the sentence.


COMPLETE COVERAGE

Journal-News Staff Writer Lauren Pack is tweeting live from the courtroom each day. Follow her at Twitter.com/LpackJN. Sign up to receive our courts and crime newsletters at journal-news.com.

About the Author