What does a 911 call say about an accused murderer’s ability to understand English?

During a lengthy 911 call on April 28, Gurpreet Singh told a dispatcher that when he walked in his West Chester Twp. apartment he found four members of his family lifeless on the floor.

In the call, he 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.

MORE: Judge ‘very irritated’ as case against West Chester quadruple homicide suspect must start over

Whether Singh can comprehend the English language became a major argument Thursday morning during a hearing when his lawyers asked Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Howard to assign an interpreter to the case, though hearings have been ongoing for months since Singh was charged with four counts of aggravated murder.

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.

Butler County Assistant Prosecutor Jon Marshall argued that Singh spoke fluent English during the 11-minute 911 call and during his extensive interviews with West Chester Twp. police officers.

The 911 dispatcher asked a weeping Singh where he was calling. He gave the address of his apartment, then she told him, “I will send help.”

There are several long pauses during the 911 call and at times Singh can be heard crying and screaming in the back ground, though it’s difficult to understand his words.

He returns to the phone: “No one is talking. No one is talking.”

Singh said there are four people on the floor and the dispatcher asked if they have been shot or stabbed.

“I don’t know,” he said.

When the police arrive, the dispatcher tells Singh to walk outside to meet the officers and make sure he doesn’t have any weapons.

West Chester received two more 911 calls and both reported a man “banging on doors” asking residents to call the police.

“He doesn’t sound right,” one 911 caller said.

Howard said he was “very irritated” that Singh’s alleged inability to understand the English language wasn’t brought to his attention until after Singh’s arraignment and bond hearing. His trial has been set for Sept. 21, 2020.

Before making his decision to bring in an interpreter, Howard said on Monday he saw Singh in the hallway of the courthouse and he said: “Good afternoon Judge Howard.”

One of Singh’s attorneys, John R. Bernans, part of the defense team from Rittgers and Rittgers, asked for a Punjabi interpreter for Singh. Bernans said after Monday’s bond hearing — where Howard decided to hold Singh without bond — attorneys met with Singh and based off his questions, they realized “for the first time he didn’t comprehend what was going on.”

Bernans said Singh didn’t understand bond and asked when he could return to his trucking business.

Not wanting to jeopardize the trial over what Howard called a “stupid technicality” from leading to a possible appeal if Singh were convicted, he declared the case will start over with another arraignment at 9 a.m. Monday. Howard said an interpreter will be present for each moment.

The native of India is being held without bond since his indictment and arrest in August.

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