Judge denies motion to suppress statements made by West Chester Twp. man charged with four homicides

Common Pleas Judge Greg Howard said no forceful police tactics were used when questioning Gurpreet Singh.

HAMILTON ― Statements to law enforcement will be permitted in the 2021 trial for a West Chester Twp. man charged with killing four members of his family last year.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Howard filed a written decision this week denying the defense’s motion to suppress statements made by Gurpreet Singh.

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.

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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.

The hearing for a motion to suppress evidence and statements by Singh filed by the defense team began back on March 6 with a day-long court session. Singh trial originally scheduled for September has been rescheduled for May 3, 2021.

After two postponements due to coronavirus concerns, the spring hearing continued in August.

The defense team of Rittgers and Rittgers argued Singh’s rights were violated when he was questioned while handcuffed outside the scene and at the police station. 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.

Prosecutors point out that Singh was questioned in a “soft interview room” where he was given water and was eventually able to call about his children, then was released and driven home.

At the March hearing, a police body camera video was played showing Singh from the moments after he called 911. 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.”

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The August hearing focused on Sing’s questioning for several hours afterward.

During questioning by Detective Randy Farris, Singh said he spent the day at the apartment and didn’t leave until the afternoon because his back was hurting. Others, including his in-laws and children, left to shop, work and go to church, he said.

Later in the day, Singh, a truck driver, said he went to where his semi was parked. When he returned home, the door to the apartment was open and his family was dead, he said.

“When I saw my mom I thought she fell on the ground and hit her head,” Singh told the detective.

He referred to his in-laws as mom and dad.

After a couple of hours of questioning, Farris told Singh that his family had been shot and requested to conduct a test on his hands for the presence of gunshot residue. Singh told the detective he did own a gun and had not shot it in years.

Singh became upset when asked to take the gunshot residue test stating and said, “I want to go home right now.” He got up, but the detective told him to sit down and read him his Miranda rights.

When Singh said he wanted a lawyer, detectives didn’t ask additional questions but told Singh he was being detained until they could get a search warrant to swab his hands.

Defense attorney Charlie M. Rittgers argued Singh was not free to leave once placed in a cruiser and detained in the interrogation room. Rittgers said Singh asked more than 30 times to see his children.

Howard said in his ruling no coercive law enforcement tactics were used by police when questioning Singh.

“The defendant was in fact read his Miranda warnings after police obviously became concerned that the defendant may be less than forthcoming about his involvement in these homicides,” Howard wrote in the opinion.

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