Gurpreet Singh quadruple homicides trial: Defense says others are responsible

Prosecution tells courtroom Singh executed a plan to kill family.

HAMILTON — Opening statements in the trial of Gurpreet Singh in Butler County Common Pleas Court began Wednesday afternoon with Assistant Prosecutor Jon Marshall telling the jury the defendant’s wife was shot in the head while making tea in the kitchen of the West Chester Twp apartment

Then Singh executed his in-laws and aunt-in-law firing 16 shots into the victims and throwing the gun in the pond behind the apartment building before call 911, he said.

Singh is accused of shooting her and three other family members who died in their West Chester Twp. home April 28, 2019.

Singh’s father-in-law was shot in the head while sleeping in his bed, Marshall said.

“They were all alive before he came home,” Marshall said, pointing to Singh at the defense table. “The defendant Gurpreet made a choice, he made a decision ... he executed a plan to kill his entire family.”

The defendant, 40, is charged with four counts of aggravated murder for the homicides. With specifications of using a firearm and killing two or more persons, Singh faces the death penalty if convicted.

He 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.

The prosecutor also told jurors Wednesday that Singh was having a long-term affair with a woman in Indianapolis, and he had gifted her with $20,000 to buy a house, while he and his family lived in the West Chester apartment together.

Marshall also pointed to GPS and cell phone data the indicates Singh waited 30 minutes after he returned home before calling 911 and telling dispatchers, “I just got home.”

Singh and his attorneys maintain his innocence, saying another person or persons are responsible for the mass family shooting.

Defense Attorney Charlie Rittgers said Pannag, his client’s father-in-law, had money troubles that had him in a land contract in India with men who were crooks. There was a long fight in India over a lawsuit regarding the land, which is worth millions, and one of the men involved in the dispute was in Cincinnati at the time of the murders.

Rittgers said a witness described a person in a breezeway near the apartment, and that person was seen running away from the building.

Singh saw the beginning of what happened when his family died, Rittgers said. After returning home from working in his semi truck, three men broke into the family apartment, one carrying a baseball bat.

“Gurpreet runs out the door,” Rittgers told the jury. He thought because of his father-in-law’s money woes, they men were going to beat him up. When he returned, he saw his wife on the ground bleeding and he ran to her hugging her then called 911.

Jury views apartment

Earlier Wednesday, the jury of eight men and four women began viewing the apartment complex where the killings occurred.

Prosecutors requested the jury view several locations near the crime scene at 4562 Wyndtree Drive, Apt. 154 including the parking lot to the west side of the building, the breezeway on the first floor walking up to the apartment, the mulch area at the end of the breezeway facing the pond and the back porch area.

Singh waived his right to attend the jury view, telling Butler County Judge J. Gregory Howard “I am okay with that,” when the judge questioned him about the decision. Only security, Howard’s bailiff and the jurors were in attendance.

During a hearing before the jury view, the prosecution objected to some of the defense’s large photo exhibits that attorney Charlie Rittgers planned to display during opening statements, including a crime scene photo and a photo of Singh with his wife and children at a birthday party.

“Not going to have photos of the crime scene or the defendant and smiling children,” Howard said. They are not evidence at this point in the trial.

He also said no to 911 calls and police body camera video during opening statements. They can be presented as evidence at trial after authenticated.

Howard said opening statements are previews for the jury of what each side believes will present at trial, not a time to show evidence and argue a case.

After two days of voir dire, the jury was seated late Tuesday. During questioning of prospective jurors, Assistant Prosecutor Josh Muennich described the homicide aftermath inside the apartment.

“Four people shot, 16 times, all but two rounds were to the head,” Muennich said.

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The 2019 murders

Singh’s family members were all dead when West Chester Police arrived at the Wyndtree Drive after he called 911. He was outside in the stairwell covered in blood, crying that his family was bleeding.

Singh was questioned for hours by police, but released. He was indicted in August 2019 and arrested in Connecticut.

The father of three young children who was a self-employed truck driver running his own company before his arrest, Singh is being held without bond in the Butler County Jail. He is a native of India but has been a United States citizen since 2009.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Hotel rooms have been booked and security arranged if the jury should require sequestration. By law, in a death penalty case, the jury must be sequestered during deliberations. If the defendant is convicted they are also required to be sequestered while deliberating a penalty recommendation following the mitigation phase.

If the defendant is convicted, the jury will consider recommendation of one of five penalties, including death, life in prison without parole, 20 years to life, 25 years to life or 30 years to life. It is up to the judge to decide whether or not to follow the jury’s recommendation and ultimately impose the sentence.


COMPLETE COVERAGE

Journal-News Staff Writer Lauren Pack has been covering the West Chester murders of the Singh family since it happened in 2019. Follow her on Twitter @LpackJN for live coverage from Gurpreet Singh’s trial in the Butler County courtroom and sign up to receive our newsletters.

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