Jury now seated in Gurpreet Singh death penalty trial

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

HAMILTON — The jury is now seated in the Butler County Common Pleas Court trial of Gurpreet Singh, who is accused of shooting to death his wife and three family members in 2019 in West Chester Twp.

Jury selection lasted two days.

Singh, 40, 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.

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.

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Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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

A pool of 81 potential jurors were seated in the county’s new super courtroom Monday for preliminary questioning by the judge. By afternoon, 32 remained after others were excused for various reasons, mostly related to work, travel and unchangeable commitments involving others.

That’s not enough people, Howard noted late Monday afternoon and adjourned court until Tuesday morning, when about 70 more potential jurors showed up.

In a death penalty case, jury candidates may be excused for cause, but the defense and the prosecution also each get six peremptory challenges. Four alternates will also be chosen. In this trial, each side will get two peremptory challenges when selecting the alternates.

Early Monday morning, pretrial motions were made regarding Singh’s alleged mistress, who the prosecution wants to call as a witness, and family tension over land in India.

Assistant Prosecutor Willa Concannon made a case for the admission of evidence that Singh had a longtime affair with the woman for years leading up to the day of the murder and was in contact with the woman on the day of the fatal shootings. She said the communications were later deleted by Singh from his phone.

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Singh gifted the woman $20,000 for the purchase of a home and also bought a house in the same neighborhood in Indiana, Concannon said during the hearing.

“This defendant’s contact with his mistress before and after the murders goes to direct evidence of his guilt,” she said.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

While affairs are not criminal, the prosecution argues the evidence is admissible for “motive and prior calculation and design.”

Defense attorney Neal Schuett argued against the alleged mistress evidence, noting affairs are common place and do not necessarily end in violence. He added because the alleged affair had been going on for years, it cuts to the immediate weight it had on the motive for the homicides.

Howard reserved final judgement but said he is “inclined” to let the evidence in at trial.

The prosecution also argued for admission of an “increasingly hostile” relationship between Singh and his father-in-law over money from a sale of land in India.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Concannon said Singh “lied” to police about his relationship with his in-laws, using the word “harmonious.”

The defense argued the evidence of any financial conflict and hostility between Singh and the family members is hearsay.

The judge again reserved a final ruling on the issue.

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Prosecutors have filed a motion for the jury to 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.

The jury view will happen after jury selection and before opening statements.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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.

It appears the defense will present evidence of an alternative suspect during the trial and file motions to make the court compel the appearance of several witnesses who are “material to identify an alternative suspect.”

Prosecutors have filed a motion block the alternative suspect evidence or, in the alternative, hold a prior hearing.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

In a motion, prosecutors asked the judge to exclude the defense from introducing evidence of an alternate suspect because, “the defendant has failed to proffer any such evidence much less establish the requisite nexus between any alleged alternate suspect and the charged murders.”

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.

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