Suspects in Turlock fatal shooting appear in court, face death penalty

11/08/2013 2:57 PM

11/08/2013 10:55 PM

Two men appeared in court Friday for the first time since their arrest on suspicion of murder in the shooting of a 21-year-old man in Turlock early Wednesday. The murder case is eligible for the death penalty.

Defendants Pardeep Singh, 21, and Kultar Singh Dhatt, 22, did not enter pleas during their brief court appearance Friday afternoon. Authorities say the two men are responsible for the shooting death of Amritpal Sandhu.

About 1:30 a.m., officers found Sandhu injured inside a white Infiniti sedan that had struck a curb near North Minaret Avenue and East Main Street in Turlock. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Singh and Dhatt are each charged with murder, making criminal threats and shooting at an occupied vehicle. Singh also faces a charge of assault with a firearm.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Alan Cassidy told the judge that the charges against both defendants include special circumstances, alleging the shots were fired from one vehicle to another with the intent to kill. The special-circumstances allegation elevates the severity of the murder charge into a capital case.

Cassidy told the judge that the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office has not decided whether to seek the death penalty against Singh and Dhatt.

Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves scheduled the defendants to return to court Nov. 21 for their continued arraignment hearing. Singh and Dhatt are being held without bail.

Sandhu, a delivery driver for a beverage company, ended his shift at midnight Tuesday and arrived home early Wednesday. But his family said he got a phone call and left his home in the Ceres area. They said they don’t know who called.

Authorities have said Sandhu called for help early Wednesday, telling the California Highway Patrol dispatcher that someone was shooting at him along Highway 99 near Turlock. Calls from cell phones to 911 routinely are routed through the CHP, which then notified Turlock police of the call.

About five minutes later, residents near Pioneer Avenue and East Main Street heard shots fired. Turlock police responded to the area and found Sandhu in the car.

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