Cousin called ‘brother’ by suspect testifies in West Chester quadruple homicide trial

Gurpreet Singh faces death penalty if convicted.

HAMILTON — Monday marked the third week of the Gurpreet Singh death penalty trial in Butler County Common Pleas Court with the jury hearing from the brother and sister caring for the defendant’s children on the night their mother and three family members were shot to death.

Singh, 40, is charged with four counts of aggravated murder for allegedly shooting and killing his wife Shalinderjit Kaur, 39; his in-laws, Hakikat Singh Pannag, 59, and Parmjit Kaur, 62; and his aunt-in-law, Amarjit Kaur, 58, at the Wyndtree Drive residence on April 28, 2019.

Prosecutors say Singh murdered his family by shooting them all in the head after a longtime affair and a strained relationship with his in-laws over land money from land owned in India.

The defense says Singh is innocent and the killings were part of a professional hit due to Pannag’s financial woes and a dubious land contract deal in India with the “land mafia.” They say three masked men broke into the apartment with baseball bats and Singh ran for his life. When he returned, everyone was dead.

One of the alternate suspects pointed to by the defense, Maninder Sekhon, testified Monday along with his sister, Harmanjot Sekhon. The brother and sister are Singh’s cousins, but Maninder and Singh referred to each other as brothers.

The defense characterized the Sekhons’ father as a man with legal difficulties in the U.S. and India who tangled with Hakikat Singh Pannag for years over a land dispute.

The Sekhons now live in Florida, but in April 2019, they lived minutes away from Singh. Harmanjot said on the day of the murders, she attended dance class with Singh’s three children and his wife, then returned to the Wyndtree Drive residence. That’s when she and Maninder decided to take the children to an Indian restaurant for dinner and then to UDF for ice cream, she said.

The brother and sister returned to the parking lot on Wyndtree Drive shortly before 9 p.m. to drop off the children. Harmanjot said she talked by phone to Singh and he told her he would pick up the children at their apartment. Harmanjot said the children then went to her apartment and began watching a movie. They never when home.

Harmanjot said Singh and his children lived with them for weeks after the murders. Singh was not indicted until August for the murders.

Maninder’s testimony mirrored his sister’s, but he was asked pointed questions about his and his father’s possible involvement in the murders.

He said his father is a real estate developer and not part of the “land mafia” in India. In fact, he said until this trial he has never heard the term. He said he is not involved in anyway in the murder and neither is his father.

During cross examination, Maninder said he’s in a tough spot testifying and agreed that Singh loved his kids and would never kill his family.

Former FBI Special Agent Kevin Horan, a cellular phone data expert, testified his analysis of data from Singh’s cell phone indicates he was at the Wyndtree Drive apartment at 9:11 p.m. the day of the murders.

During cross examination by defense attorney Charlie Rittgers, Horan agreed it is well known if a person does not want to be tracked, like to do something nefarious, ”all they have to do is turn the phone off.”

On Friday, Singh’s longtime mistress testified. Navkiran Kaur, now 35, remarried and a recent mother of a new baby, did not want to be photographed by media in the courtroom. She used an interpreter testify.

Kaur said she met Singh in 2011 through her ex-husband who, like Singh, was a semi-truck driver. She and Singh were friendly and eventually they began a romantic sexual relationship. She said she knew Singh was married and had met his wife and children.

When Kaur began divorce proceedings, she turned to Singh for help and he translated court documents. In 2018, Kaur said Singh gave her $20,000 to secure a house in her own name. Singh then bought a house in the same neighborhood.

Singh also gave Kaur an Audi SUV to drive. Jurors were shown photos of Kaur posing with the white vehicle on the street in a neighborhood lined with upscale brick homes.

Kaur said she communicated with Singh through WhatsApp and they met each other about once a week.

A download of Singh’s cell phone by a forensic specialist showed there were 183 calls or messages between the two between December 2018 and April 28, 2019.

After her divorce, Kaur said Singh asked her if she would marry him if he was single.

On the day of the homicides, Singh’s cell phone data indicates Kaur messaged him multiple times before and after the family was found dead. He did not answer any of her messages.

During cross examination, Kaur agreed with defense attorney Charlie Rittgers that Singh was never violent and was kind. She said since the arrest, she has had no communication with Singh.

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