BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A 67-year-old man who shot and killed his daughter-in-law after she allegedly insulted him has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
A jury convicted Jagjit Singh Wednesday afternoon. He faces a life term in prison.
Singh listened through headphones to a Punjabi interpreter as Judge John W. Lua read the verdict. Singh showed no reaction.
He shot Sumandeep Kaur Kooner, 37, following an argument the morning of Aug. 26, 2019. When police arrived, Singh said he either had to kill himself or Kooner due to her “dishonoring of him,” according to court documents.
His attorney, David A. Torres, said during closing arguments last week the killing occurred in the heat of the moment and Singh should be acquitted of murder and instead found guilty of voluntary manslaughter.
Prosecutor Kara Thompson, however, said Singh shot Kooner for defying him and showing independence. She asked for a first-degree murder conviction.
The attorneys said they were unable to comment Wednesday because the trial isn’t over. Jurors are returning Thursday to deliberate on circumstances in aggravation filed by the District Attorney’s office.
Aggravating factors, if found true, typically lead to a harsher sentence.
According to Torres and co-counsel Navraj S. Rai, Singh tried to counsel Kooner after overhearing a phone call in which she talked about leaving the family. Singh, his wife, Kooner, her husband and their children lived together in a house on Monache Meadows Drive.
As they argued, Kooner told Singh to mind his own business and said, “I’ll pull off your beard and shove it up your (expletive),” Torres said. She also threatened to call police and file a false report saying Singh sexually assaulted her, the attorney said.
Hair is very important among Sikhs, and cutting the beard of a Sikh against their will would be considered an act of sacrilege, a Punjabi cultural expert testified last week.
Singh grabbed a revolver and shot Kooner three times.
In her closing argument, Thompson told the jury Singh could have let the alleged insults pass but instead went to his bedroom, loaded the revolver and returned to the living room where he shot Kooner in the back of the neck as she lay on a sofa. He then walked around the sofa and fired two more shots into her, Thompson said.
She said Singh paused and thought about a course of action. And he decided Kooner must die.