The death penalty trial for a man charged with killing his wife and three other family members in West Chester Twp. has been continued until 2021 due to coronavirus concerns.
Gurpreet Singh, 37, is charged with four counts of aggravated murder. With specifications of using a firearm and killing two or more persons, Singh faces the death penalty if convicted. He is being held in the Butler County Jail.
On Wednesday, after consulting with prosecutors and defense attorneys Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Howard moved the trial from Sept. 21 to May 3, 2021. The judge noted “issues concerning the public health crisis regarding COVID-19 and what the court believes may be difficult in seating a jury for the time period necessary to conduct the trial of this matter” in the rescheduling order.
Capital cases are typically lengthy and sometimes require the jury to be sequestered because the death penalty is considered if defendant is found guilty.
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 in April 2019. 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 with a day-long court session. The hearing was scheduled to continue two weeks later, but it was moved. Howard also reset the continuation of that hearing for Aug. 24.
During the 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 Wyndtree Drive apartment building on April 28, 2019.
At the hearing, body cam video as played from the moments after Singh 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 Charles H. and Charles M. Rittgers and Neal Schuett argued Singh’s constitutional rights were violated during a five-hour interrogation by West Chester police, so they want evidence gathered during the interrogation suppressed.
“During those five hours, Mr. Singh repeatedly asked to speak with his children, his family members and to a lawyer,” a defense motion says. “It was not until after two hours of interrogation that Mr. Singh was read his Miranda rights. At that point, Mr. Singh refused to make any further statements and unequivocally ascertained his right to counsel.
“However, Mr. Singh was prevented from leaving the interrogation room, and he was told on multiple occasions that he was ‘detained’ and that he was ‘not free to leave.’”
Prosecutors say Singh’s rights were not violated and the defense fails to identify any particular statements they are seeking to suppress.
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