A man accused of killing his wife and three other family members will be back in Butler County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday for a pre-trial hearing.
Gurpreet Singh, 37, was indicted by a Butler County grand jury on four counts of aggravated murder stemming from the April 28 incident in West Chester Twp. With specifications of using a firearm and killing two or more persons, Singh faces the death penalty if convicted.
Singh appeared before Judge Greg Howard in October and a Sept. 21, 2020 trial date was set. He is being held in the county jail without bond.
Several motions filed by the defense are expected to be part of Wednesday’s hearing, including a request to close all pre-trial hearings to the media.
Defense attorneys Charles H. and Charles W. Rittgers filed the motion to exclude the media from hearings leading up to trial “in order to insulate prospective jurors from information that would taint their neutrality.”
After last month’s hearing, Charles H. Rittgers told a group of reporters the motion was filed “because of the publicity, we do not want the jury tainted by anything that may be heard as a result of what the prosecutors say or what we say.”
Prosecutors have filed a motion in opposition that says, in part, “The media representatives enjoy the same right of access to criminal trials as does the public. Based on the First Amendment guarantees, the government is prohibited from closing the courtroom doors without some type of compelling interest. No such compelling interest can be found to exist in this case based solely, as defendant contends, on the fact that this is a capital case.”
The response written by county Assistant Prosecutor Jon Marshall also says that “ broadcast coverage of trials and pre-trial hearings is important for public confidence in and understanding of the legal system, as numerous American courts have recognized: ‘On balance there is more gained than lost by permitting electronic media coverage of judicial proceedings, subject to standards of such coverage.’”
Last week, the defense also filed a motion to have more than $10,000 that was seized from Singh returned to the defendant.
“The seized property at issue in this motion consists of U.S. currency,” the motion says. “The State of Ohio has seized a total of $10,300 from Mr. Singh. First, law enforcement seized $8,000 in cash from Mr. Singh’s residence. Subsequently, another $2,300 from was seized from Mr. Singh’s person when he was taken into custody. Both seizures were improper … and the cash should be returned.”
Charles H. Rittgers, who says his client is innocent, argues the case does not involve the sale or purchase of illegal property, such as drugs, and Singh’s possession of his currency was not illegal.
As of Friday, the prosecution had not responded to the motion.
Singh is the man who called 911 at about 9:40 p.m. on April 28, screaming that he found his family dead, according to police. The defense team said Singh last saw his family alive about 6 p.m. when he left to work on his truck.
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 on Wyndtree Drive. All died of gunshot wounds.
On Sept. 24, prosecutors filed an eight-page document listing evidence in the case. Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said 64 search warrants have been issued as part of the investigation. They are sealed by the judge for all but attorneys to review.
Listed on the court documents are audio or video interviews with 42 people, including eight calls to India using interpreters, and 24 electronic device downloads.
Lab results include a report of blood found on a belt, DNA on boots and siding, a projectile and gun report, and a forensic dive team report.
The evidence listed also includes: “Land dispute information with email correspondence, flow charts, and photographs of involved individuals. A copy of Hakikat passport, Hakikat power of attorney and India attorney send paperwork.”
Hundreds of photos are listed as evidence, including 146 from the crime scene, autopsy, gun recovery, apartment complex, firearm from the apartment and 360 interactive scene photos.
Listed search warrants include those for four cars, computers, cell phones, “kids DNA,” a storage unit, Gas Buddy and American Airlines.
Surveillance video from 15 locations are part of the evidence list, including Compass Self Storage, Guru Temple, Jamie’s Landscaping, LePetite Academy, McDonald’s at Union Center, Premier Shooting and PNC Bank.
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