BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — An appeals court has upheld the murder conviction of a Bakersfield woman who drowned her newborn grandchild in 2018.
The decision, filed Thursday, means 47-year-old Beant Dhillon will continue serving 29 years to life in prison.
A jury convicted Dhillon in 2020 of first-degree murder and two assault charges, one filed in connection with the baby’s death on Nov. 12, 2018, the other for failing to get her 15-year-old daughter medical care after the birth.
At trial, defense lawyer David A. Torres argued the baby died soon after birth as a result of the daughter having received no prenatal care, or from blood loss because the baby’s umbilical cord wasn’t tied off after being severed. He also suggested the baby’s father, an adult cousin of the daughter, may have played a role in the child’s death.
Prosecutor John Allen pointed to Dhillon’s confession — which she later recanted — and the multiple lies she told to investigators as evidence of her guilt. In a recorded interview played for the jury, Dhillon told investigators she drowned the baby because the pregnancy would bring shame to the family.
The beliefs and practices of the Sikh community were a focal point of the trial. Cultural experts explained many families in the Punjab region of India — where Dhillon was born — are extremely conservative and pregnancy outside of wedlock is considered shameful by some in the community.
After she drowned the baby, Dhillon and Bakhshinderpal Singh Mann, the baby’s father, buried the body in the family’s backyard on Shining Crag Avenue, investigators determined. Dhillon’s husband, Jagsir Singh, 47, was called home from work and took part in the coverup.
After posting bail on a charge of being an accessory to murder, Singh hanged himself at home.
Mann was arrested in Canada in 2021 on an accessory charge but had not been extradited to Kern County as of Thursday.