Trial of woman charged with drowning newborn postponed to Dec. 10 after juror tests positive for coronavirus

Crime Watch

Beant Dhillon

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The trial of Beant Dhillon, accused of drowning her newborn grandson, won’t resume until next week after a juror informed the court she tested positive for the coronavirus.

Judge Kenneth C. Twisselman II said the trial, which had been scheduled to continue Monday, will instead start again Dec. 10, with an estimated end date of Dec. 18. Twisselman said there are only two or three days of evidence left to present before the jury will begin deliberations.

Two jurors met with Twisselman to express concerns over scheduled appointments that could be impacted by the trial’s extension, but both agreed they could continue serving as jurors after the judge said he could work around their plans.

Dhillon, 44, is charged with first-degree murder and two assault offenses, one filed in connection with the baby’s death, the other for failing to get her teenage daughter medical care after the birth. Dhillon faces life in prison if convicted of the murder charge.

Her trial began Nov. 16.

Prosecutors say Dhillon killed the baby Nov. 12, 2018, and buried the body in the backyard of her southwest Bakersfield home to avoid the shame her unwed daughter’s pregnancy would bring the family in the Sikh community. She confessed to the killing, but testified last week that she lied to police in order to prevent the rest of her family from getting in trouble.

The defense has argued the baby was either born dead or died shortly after birth. It has also thrown suspicion on the child’s father, Bakhshinderpal Singh Mann, who was alone with the baby for a short time while Dhillon cleaned her daughter in another room.

The daughter testified she kept her pregnancy a secret from everyone except Mann. She said her parents told her they put the baby up for adoption, and she didn’t suspect the baby had been killed until an argument with her father months later where he indicated her son’s body was buried in their backyard on Shining Crag Avenue.

Dhillon and her husband, Jagsir Singh, were arrested arrested Feb. 26, 2019, after police exhumed the body. Prosecutors charged Singh with being an accessory to murder.

After posting bond, Singh, 48, returned to the family home, where he hanged himself in a closet.

Mann fled before police arrived. His whereabouts remain unknown. Both Singh and Mann were in the country illegally.

Mann is alleged to have helped bury the baby. He is a cousin of Dhillon’s daughter, and began a sexual relationship with her when she was 14 and he was in his 20s, according to testimony.

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