VANCOUVER - A fugitive who was on the run for a dozen years over the execution-style shooting death of his Vancouver ex-girlfriend apologized to the family Thursday, and then asked for mercy from the judge who will pronounce his sentence.
"I can't bring (her) back," Ninderjit Singh said Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court. "I'm so sorry from the bottom of my heart. So please give me a chance."
Singh pleaded guilty earlier this month to the second-degree murder of 18-year-old Poonam Randhawa, whose body was found discarded in an alley in a pile of shattered glass in January 1999.
The then-21 years old, Singh fled the same day to California, where he grew a bushy beard, gained weight and lived under an alias until police hunted him down in August 2011 — just before he was to apparently get an operation to alter his fingerprints.
His defence lawyer told the judge that human nature and a "dysfunctional" upbringing triggered the young adult to gun down the teenager he believed was cheating on him.
"His motivation arose on the basis of all human emotions, jealousy and a desire to control others," lawyer Russ Chamberlain told court.
Although his client did arrive at the scene of the crime with a loaded handgun, Singh did not deliberately set out with murder in mind, he said.
"It arose out of ... the spontaneous remarks made between two individuals. It wasn't a cruel hunting down of this woman to kill her."
Court heard on Wednesday, the first day of the sentencing hearing, that Randhawa defiantly suggested her ex-boyfriend should "go ahead" and shoot her when he pointed the weapon at her head from the front seat of a friend's car.
Chamberlain asked the judge to consider a range of mitigating factors and to keep the term at the low end in relation to the minimum sentence of life in prison with no parole eligibility for 10 years.
Crown lawyers argued a day earlier there are many aggravating but no mitigating factors in asking for no parole eligibility for 17 to 20 years.
Chamberlain told court that Singh's father died when his son was an infant, and he did not have the benefit of a stable home life.
In the following years, his client married a Canadian woman who was living in the U.S. with whom he has two daughters. He has demonstrated he is a good and loving husband and father, who has also turned back to his religion, Chamberlain said.
"He did the right thing, he pleaded guilty," he told court, noting his client spared the family from a traumatic trial which was to have started earlier this month. "He is to be given credit for that as a human being."
The lawyer also noted that even if Singh is granted parole, he will almost immediately be deported to India because he was only a permanent resident, and not a Canadian citizen. His conviction means he will never be able to return to Canada or the U.S.
Chamberlain read out a statement from the man's 23-year-old current wife, Navdeep, who referred to the consequences of a lengthy sentence on their children.
"They've done no wrong. They are my angels, so why punish them?" she said in the statement.
The defence portrait was in stark contrast to that painted by a Crown lawyer in her final arguments earlier in the day.
Singh has displayed a longtime disregard for women and his character remains unchanged since his high school years, prosecutor Sandra Cunningham told court.
The man dumped Randhawa's body "like a piece of garbage" and then fled to the U.S. where he "lived well, in a big house."
She earlier told court that telephone transcripts of calls between Singh and his wife from jail were laden with expletive-laced insults and threats of future violence, including telling her his grandmother would kick her in the ribs.
Cunningham told court the man has internalized beliefs from his grandmother that "women only look good under men's feet."
She noted that Singh blamed his victim for her own death when he was arrested. Further, he and his family showed an utter disregard for law by spending large amounts of money to disguise his identity while maintaining they had no clues to his whereabouts.
Outside court, Chamberlain said he's not aware of any potential for charges to be laid against relatives.
A spokesman for Vancouver Police added the force would not comment on whether there is any investigation into aiding and abetting, but said they'll make a statement after the sentence is delivered on April 10.
Harry Randhawa, a cousin of the victim, said his family wants charges laid.
"The Randhawa family holds his entire family responsible for supporting him financially, helping him through all his illegal activities," he said.