Case of 4 West Chester family murders: What’s the latest?

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Hearing for Gurpreet Singh who is charged with killing four members of his family in West Chester

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

It could be months before a decision about whether statements to investigators will be thrown out at trial for a West Chester Twp. man charged with killing four members of his family last year.

A hearing that began in March and was postponed twice due to coronavirus concerns continued Monday in Butler County Common Pleas court for Gurpreet Singh.

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Gurpreet Singh, charged with four counts of aggravated murder for the shooting death of four members of his family in West Chester Township, appeared in Butler County Common Pleas Court for a pre-trial hearing Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 in Hamilton. He now has an interpreter, Khalid Ahmad, standing, who will be with him through the process to make sure he understands what is going on in court. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Gurpreet Singh, charged with four counts of aggravated murder for the shooting death of four members of his family in West Chester Township, appeared in Butler County Common Pleas Court for a pre-trial hearing Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 in Hamilton. He now has an interpreter, Khalid Ahmad, standing, who will be with him through the process to make sure he understands what is going on in court. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

caption arrowCaption
Gurpreet Singh, charged with four counts of aggravated murder for the shooting death of four members of his family in West Chester Township, appeared in Butler County Common Pleas Court for a pre-trial hearing Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 in Hamilton. He now has an interpreter, Khalid Ahmad, standing, who will be with him through the process to make sure he understands what is going on in court. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Singh, 38, is charged with four counts of aggravated murder for the April 28, 2019 homicides. With specifications of using a firearm and killing two or more persons, Singh faces the death penalty if convicted.

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Singh is accused of killing his wife, Shalinderjit Kaur, 39; his in-laws, Hakikat Singh Pannag, 59, and Parmjit Kaur, 62; and his aunt by marriage, Amarjit Kaur, 58, at their residence on Wyndtree Drive. All died of gunshot wounds.

The hearing for a motion to suppress evidence and statements by Singh filed by the defense team began in March 6 with a day-long court session. Singh trial originally scheduled for September as been rescheduled for May 3, 2021.

Prosecutors and Singh’s defense team of Rittgers and Rittgers will have until the end of September to file additional written arguments to the defense’s motion to suppress Singh’s statements to West Chester police. Judge Greg Howard said he would then issue a written decision.

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The defense argues Singh’s rights were violated when he was questioned while handcuffed outside the scene and at the police station. But prosecutors say Singh was handcuffed for about 10 minutes for officer safety and as a witness when they found him bloody in the stairwell of the apartment building.

Prosecutors point out that Singh was questioned in a “soft interview room” where he was given water and was eventually able to call about his children, then was released and driven home.

At the March hearing, police body camera video was played showing Singh from the moments after he called 911. Singh is seen wearing a red shirt, jeans and socks. As officers move toward him, blood is visible on his hands, shirt, pants and socks. He cries and says, “please help them.”

Monday’s hearing focused on Sing’s questioning for several hours afterward.

During questioning by Detective Randy Farris, Singh said he spent the day at the apartment and didn’t leave until the afternoon because his back was hurting. Others, including his in-laws and children, left to shop, work and go to church, he said.

Later in the day, Singh, a truck driver, said he went to where his semi was parked. When he returned home, the door to the apartment was open and his family was dead, he said.

“When I saw my mom I thought she fell on the ground and hit her head,” Singh told the detective.

He referred to his in-laws as mom and dad.

“Then I saw my wife and my aunt, all bleeding,” he said. “Then I see my dad, he is in bed, he’s bleeding too.”

After a couple of hours of questioning, Farris told Singh that his family had been shot and requested to conduct a test on his hands for the presence of gunshot residue. Singh told the detective he did own a gun and had not shot it in years.

Singh became upset when asked to take the gunshot residue test stating and said, “I want to go home right now.” He got up, but the detective told him to sit down and read him his Miranda rights.

“I don’t want to talk. I want to go to my kids,” Singh told the detective. “No one told me they were shot. Oh my God, this is wrong.”

When Singh said he wanted a lawyer, detectives didn’t ask additional questions but told Singh he was being detained until they could get a search warrant to swab his hands.

"You are treating me like I am a criminal … my kids are alone they are in danger. Someone shot my family,” Singh said.

Defense attorney Charlie M. Rittgers argued Singh was not free to leave once placed in a cruiser and detained in the interrogation room. Rittgers said Singh asked more than 30 times to see his children.

Rittgers maintained Singh was treated as a suspect and should have been read his rights from the beginning. The defense attorney said information gained from Singh during questioning was used to get more that 40 search warrants served in the case.

“Would you treat a victim the same way?” Rittgers asked Farris.

The detective answered, “depends on the circumstances.”

Farris said there were five adults living in the apartment, four were dead and Singh was the only one alive. He had material evidence on his person that needed to be collected, he said.

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