SAN FRANCISCO – Gurparkash Singh Khalsa, who was serving a life sentence for murdering his daughter’s boyfriend in 2007, was found dead Oct. 29 in Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad, California. The 59-year-old Khalsa was pronounced dead at 7:10 a.m. on prison grounds. His wife, Gurmeet Kaur, and his daughters Minninder and Kiranjot had been scheduled to see him later that day.
In April 2010, a jury found Khalsa guilty of first degree murder, as well as lying in wait and ambushing 23-yar-old Ajmer Hothi, the boyfriend of Khalsa’s then-underage daughter Kiranjot Pannu. He was sentenced Dec. 17 to life without the possibility of parole and began serving his sentence Dec. 27.
Lt Kevin Gardepie of the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department told India-West that his preliminary investigation revealed Khalsa had died from cardiac arrest, similar to a heart attack. Khalsa had coronary artery disease when he entered prison, said Gardepie, adding that CAD takes years to develop before it is fatal.
“There was nothing of suspicion at the scene, nothing to indicate there was foul play or suicide,” said Gardepie, adding also that Khalsa had not been on a hunger strike, and had been provided a completely vegetarian diet at the prison, in accordance with his religious mandates.
Toxicology reports will be completed in three to four weeks. Khalsa’s body was returned to his family Nov. 1. Michael Nilsson, the public information officer at Salinas Valley State Prison, told India-West that Khalsa had been at that facility for less than a month when he died.
“He was in a cell by himself and there were no obvious signs of suicide,” said Nilsson, stressing that there were no signs of self-inflicted wounds.
Khalsa was transferred to Salinas Valley State Prison on Oct. 7 this year, from the Deuel Vocational Institution, where he had been held following sentencing last December. Khalsa’s family – who arrived at the prison as Gardepie was investigating the scene – could not be reached for comment.
Throughout the four years since he was arrested, Khalsa has unswervingly maintained his innocence. “The jury did God’s will. But this is not over. I believe in time I will be free,” Khalsa reportedly told his attorney, Daniel Horowitz, after the verdict was read out in April 2010.
In an earlier story, Horowitz told India-West he was planning to appeal the verdict and exonerate Khalsa of all charges.
Khalsa, the former owner of Pacific Coast Intermodal trucking company in French Camp, Calif., and his daughter Kiranjot reportedly stalked Hothi for more than a month. Hothi, 23, of Lodi, Calif., was found dead Mar. 28, 2007, in the cab of his semi truck, which was riddled with bullet holes from a Beretta gun.
Khalsa had registered a Beretta handgun with the Stockton Police Department some years before Hothi’s death.
Court papers revealed Hothi and Pannu began their romance in November 2004. Khalsa found out about the romance and forbade it. Shortly afterwards, Hothi was sent to India by his parents for an arranged marriage.
Khalsa heard rumors that Hothi had got Pannu pregnant and was forced to have an abortion. He travelled to the Indian village where Hothi had been married, and attempted to broker a divorce, so that Hothi could marry his daughter.
An unsuccessful Khalsa returned to the US Shortly after, Hothi also inexplicably returned to the US, without his new wife.
It was unclear whether Khalsa, a devout Sikh, was allowed to wear his turban or keep his beard while in state prison. The CDCR created regulations in 2006 governing Sikh religious attire, designed to bring the state in line with federal laws, but California state prisons continue to operate under a patchwork mosaic of policy for accommodating religiously-mandated turbans and beards.
Gardepie told India-West that Khalsa was not wearing a turban when he saw him, but added that it may have been removed by medics who arrived at the scene before he did.