A man accused of killing his wife and three other family members in West Chester Twp. last year was in Butler County Common Pleas Court on Thursday for a pre-trial hearing, the second since the case started over after the defense questioned if he understood English.
Gurpreet Singh, 37, is charged with four counts of aggravated murder stemming from the April 28 incident. With specifications of using a firearm and killing two or more persons, Singh faces the death penalty if convicted.
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 apartment. All died of gunshot wounds.
In December, Judge Greg Howard ordered that Singh’s case start over with arraignment of the indictment after his defense team questioned if the native of India understood court proceeds because English is not his native language. An interpreter fluent in Punjabi was present for the hearing Thursday, and the judge has ordered the interpreter be present for all hearings through the trial that is set for September.
After a second bond hearing on Dec. 16, where the judge again ordered Singh be held without bond, a member of the defense team said Singh asked questions about the proceeding which led him to believe Singh may not understand what was happening in the courtroom.
On Thursday, the defense team again requested bond be reconsidered, but it was denied for a third time by Howard. Singh heard the decision this time in English from the judge and in Punjabi from the interpreter.
Numerous motions filed by the defense since Singh’s August arraignment will have to be reconsidered during hearings when the interpreter is present.
The defense again requested $10,000 found in Singh’s wife’s purse when the apartment was searched after the quadruple homicide be given to Singh.
In November, the defense argued the cash should be returned to Singh as part of marital property. This week, the defense filed a supplemental motion arguing the money should be returned to the guardians of Singh’s two children who are now living with relatives of the victim in California.
Attorney John R. Bernans, part of the defense team, said if Singh or his wife cannot have the money, the guardians should be permitted to use it “for the care and well-being of the children.”
“The children are living in California and that money could go to good use for their support,” Bernans said. He said the prosecution could take pictures of the money and location so it could possibly be used for trial.
But Assistant Prosecutor Jon Marshall said, “The evidence was seized pursuant to a search warrant. It is evidence in a quadruple homicide …. we are here to prosecute this defendant for the murder of four people in his home. The items recovered in his home are evidence of the crime.”
Marshall said Singh has other assets, including a home in Indiana and a semi truck that he could liquidate to get money to care for his children.
“It is also the state’s understanding from contact with the victim’s family that they have no interest, nor have they made a request for the money for the care of the victim’s children,” Marshall said.
Howard denied the motion in November and denied it again on Thursday.
Ajaib Singh, whose two sisters and brother-in-law were killed, said the children are doing well and attending public school in California.
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