One year later: Twists and turns in the shocking West Chester murders

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Police believe that a shooter who killed four members of a family in a West Chester Twp. apartment is not among the dead, West Chester Twp. police Chief Joel Herzog said during a news conference today.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

On the night of April 28, 2019, Gurpreet Singh called 911 screaming that he found his wife and other family members bleeding and lifeless in their West Chester Twp. apartment.

MORE: Judge says case in West Chester quadruple homicide case must start over

In the call, Singh can be heard frantically screaming: “My wife and family are on the ground bleeding. Please hurry. No one is talking. No one is talking.”

The dispatcher asked if he did anything to them.

“No, I just got home,” he said.

That call began one of the biggest and most unusual investigations and court cases in recent area memory. In the nearly one year since, Singh was arrested after first being questioned and released, brought back to Ohio from Connecticut, charged with four murders and then watched as his case was restarted from the beginning after his defense team suggested he didn’t understand English well enoughto know what was going on.

After months of investigationWest Chester police arrested Singh in Connecticut, where defense attorneys say he was attending a wedding according to defense attorneys, and charged him with the slaying of all four family members.

Singh, 37, was indicted by a Butler County grand jury on four counts of aggravated murder. With specifications of using a firearm and killing two or more persons, Singh faces the death penalty if convicted.

After extradition to Ohio, Singh faced a Butler County judge for the first time on Aug. 5 where common pleas Judge Greg Howard denied bond. Members of his family were looking on in the courtroom, when Singh appeared to pass out and fall to the floor. He was helped to his feet by deputies and recovered.

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 on Wyndtree Drive. All died of gunshot wounds.

A defense team of Charles H. Rittgers and Charles M. Rittgers was retained by Singh to represent him early on when police called him in for questioning a second time. The firm continued as Singh counsel after he was formally charged.

A trial date of Sept. 21 was set and motions from both the prosecution and defense were filed in mass, but the progress of the case came to a halt on Dec 19, when the judge ordered the case “start over” after the defense questioned whether Singh understands English.

MORE:West Chester homicides suspect won’t get $8K found in dead wife’s purse

Howard did not contain his ire when he told the defense attorneys he was “very irritated” they had requested their client have an interpreter months into the case. The judge said he did not want the case overturned on a “stupid technicality” and ordered the case begin again with arraignment.

On Dec. 23, with an interpreter fluent in Punjabi whispering over his shoulder at the defense table, Singh was arraigned again, and he was again denied bond.

After a January hearing, Ajaib Singh, whose sisters Paramjit and Amarjit Kaur were killed, said, "It is very hard to see him,. It is very frustrating for all of us. We thought it would be a really fast case."

The hearing for motion to suppress evidence and statements by Singh filed by the defense team began in March with a day-long court session. The hearing was scheduled to continue two weeks later, but it was moved to Monday. That hearing date has been been moved again to June 22 during to the coronavius pandemic.

During the early March hearing, the defense argued Singh’s rights were violated when he was questioned while handcuffed outside the scene and at the police department.

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

At the hearing, police body cam video was played showing Singh from the moments after he called 911 saying he found his family bleeding and police arrived.

“What happened?” West Chester officers ask Singh.

“I don’t know, everybody bleeding,” Singh answers while lying on his belly in the stairwell of the complex.

His bloody hands are cuffed behind his back in the video.

Defense attorneys argued Singh’s constitutional rights were violated during a five-hour interrogation by West Chester police, so they want evidence gathered during interrogation suppressed. Prosecutors say Singh’s rights were not violated and the defense fails to identify any particular statements they are seeking to suppress.

When West Chester Police arrived at the Wyndtree Drive apartment, they found Singh “covered with blood and brain matter,” said Assistant Prosecutor Jon Marshall.

Singh was handcuffed for officer safety for approximately 10 minutes, then placed in the back of the cruiser while officers tried to gather information, according to prosecutors. He was later taken to a “soft interview room” to talk to detectives. He was walked through the front door of the police station and was not handcuffed, police and prosecutors say.

Body camera video played during the hearing showed Singh wearing a red shirt, jeans and socks after calling 911. As officers move toward him, blood is visible on his hands, shirt, pants and socks. He cries and says, “please help them.”

An officer asked Singh in the body cam video, “Why are you so bloody, why are you covered with blood?”

There was no answer from Singh.

The defense continued to underline that Singh was asked multiple questions by police while handcuffed and was not permitted to leave the cruiser or the interrogation room for several hours, even when he begged to check on his children.

But prosecutors and police say in the hours after the murders were discovered, Singh was not in custody. But he was the 911 caller and key to learning what happened. Plus, he was wearing evidence, they said.

Interview tapes of Singh by police are expected to be played at the June hearing.

Gurinder Singh, son of Amarjit Kaur, said Friday via social media after learning of the delay, “it’s been almost 1 year. This bloody dog murdered 4 innocent victims … miss u mummy Ji.”

“It is difficult for our client, who is sitting here without a bond,” said Charles H. Rittgers. “Not being able to get out of jail and having this extended, there is no question about that.”

MORE: Video of West Chester homicide suspect shown for first time

Timeline of West Chester quadruple homicide case

April 28, 2019: Gurpeet Singh calls 911 and tells dispatchers he found his family lifeless at their Wyndtree Drive apartment. Police find Singh's wife, Shalinderjit Kaur, 39; his in-laws, Hakikat Singh Pannag, 59, and Parmjit Kaur, 62; and his aunt by marriage, Amarjit Kaur, 58, dead. All died of gunshot wounds.

July 2: West Chester Police announce the arrest of Singh in Connecticut for the murder of all four family members.

Aug. 2: A grand jury indictment charges Singh with four counts of aggravated murder. With specifications of using a firearm and killing two or more persons, he faces the death penalty if convicted.

Aug. 5: Singh is arraigned in Butler County Common Pleas Court, and Judge Greg Howard denies bond.

Dec. 19: Howard orders the case to "start over" with an interpreter after the defense questions whether Singh understands English.

Dec. 23: Singh is arraigned again with an interpreter at his side. He is again denied bond.

March 6, 2020: A hearing on a defense motion to suppress evidence and statements begins in a day-long court session. It is scheduled to continue later in the month.

April 23: After two continuations, the second half of hearing on a motion to suppress is continued to June 22, due to coronavirus concerns.

Sept 21 - Singh trial is scheduled to begin

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