Months later hearing continues today for man accused of killing 4 family members in West Chester

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Gurpreet Singh appears in court with interpreter

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A hearing that began five months ago concerning evidence in the case of a man accused of killing four members of his family in West Chester Twp. is scheduled to continue today.

Gurpreet 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.

Gurpreet Singh, who is charged with four counts of aggravated murder for allegedly killing his wife and other family member, was in Butler County Common Pleas Court for a pre-trial hearing Monday. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Gurpreet Singh, who is charged with four counts of aggravated murder for allegedly killing his wife and other family member, was in Butler County Common Pleas Court for a pre-trial hearing Monday. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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.

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

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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.”

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

After extradition to Ohio, Singh faced a Butler County judge for the first time on Aug. 5, and Butler County 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.

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, before he faced charges. The firm continued as Singh’s counsel after he was formally charged.

A trial date of Sept. 21 was set, and motions from both the prosecution and defense were filed, 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.

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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.

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 was moved several times do to coronavirus concerns and eventually scheduled for today. Singh’s trial date has also been reset for May 3, 2021.

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 camera video was played showing Singh from the moments after he called 911.

“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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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

Today’s hearing is expected to include some or all of that questioning by detectives.

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