Third suspect in Turlock slaying makes first court appearance

04/28/2014 3:49 PM

04/28/2014 6:24 PM

The third man arrested in a Turlock murder case made his first appearance Monday in a Stanislaus County courtroom. The defendant was arrested last week after a police pursuit ended in a crash in Vallejo.

Cole Nathaniel Millington is accused of murder in the Nov. 6 shooting of Amritpal Sandhu, who was found dead in a car near Pioneer Avenue and East Main Street. Authorities have said 21-year-old Sandhu called 911 from Highway 99 to report that he was being shot at shortly before he was found dead.

Millington entered the courtroom in a red-and-white jail inmate jumpsuit with shackles on his wrists and ankles. He appeared with defense attorney Robert Orenstein, who was appointed to represent Millington.

The defendant did not enter a plea Monday afternoon. Orenstein’s firm has appeared in court with one of the co-defendants twice before, so the defense attorney wanted to make sure he has no conflicts of interest that would prevent him from representing Millington.

Superior Court Judge Marie Silveira postponed Millington’s arraignment hearing until May 12. He was ordered to remain in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail. He was being held without bail.

Prosecutors added enhancements to Millington’s charges, claiming he acted with premeditation and used a gun in Sandhu’s death, according to a criminal complaint filed Jan. 21. The complaint includes a special allegation that Millington killed Sandhu while lying in wait.

The allegation makes Millington’s case eligible for the death penalty. His co-defendants, Pardeep Singh and Kultar Singh Dhatt, also face capital murder charges in Sandhu’s death. The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office, however, has not decided whether to seek the death penalty against the three defendants.

Authorities had been looking for Millington for three months before he was found and taken into custody Thursday in Vallejo. Millington was a passenger in a vehicle that sped away from Vallejo police after officers tried to make a traffic stop.

The police pursuit ended when the driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed near Tennessee Street, the Vallejo Times-Herald reported. Police said Millington and the driver ran from the vehicle but were captured soon after.

For now, Millington is being prosecuted separately from his co-defendants.

Not long after the shooting, Singh, 21, and Dhatt, 22, were arrested on suspicion of murder in Sandhu’s death. They remain in custody at the jail and are scheduled to return to court May 23.

Singh and Dhatt also have been charged with shooting at an occupied vehicle. Singh faces additional charges of assault with a firearm and making criminal threats. They have pleaded not guilty and denied enhancements added to their charges.

The charges against Singh and Dhatt include special circumstances claiming that shots were fired from one vehicle to another with the intent to kill. The allegation elevates the severity of the murder charge to a capital case.

About 1:30 a.m., officers found Sandhu shot to death inside a white Infiniti sedan that had struck a curb near North Minaret Avenue and East Main Street in Turlock.

Authorities have said Sandhu called for help, telling a dispatcher that someone was shooting at him along Highway 99 near Turlock. About five minutes later, residents near Pioneer Avenue and East Main Street heard gunshots. Turlock police found Sandhu in the car.

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