Jurors are deliberating the fate of Dawn Singh, who is accused of being the getaway driver in the 2009 slayings of a Kerman couple, whose throats were slashed inside their home, which had an indoor marijuana-growing operation.
After discussing the evidence for a few hours, the jury went home Thursday for the weekend. Because Monday is the Columbus Day holiday, jurors will return to Fresno County Superior Court on Tuesday.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Eric Green said Singh, 41, never left her car and didn’t know that Sandra and Gary De Bartolo would be killed.
Prosecutor Gabriel Brickey, however, said Singh was a major participant in a plan to steal a stash of high-grade marijuana from the De Bartolos.
Brickey said Singh helped Jose Reyes get a gun before he went inside the De Bartolo home. She also told her accomplices that if they grabbed Sandra De Bartolo, her husband would easily turn over the marijuana, Brickey told the jury.
And after the De Bartolos were killed, Singh never expressed shock or remorse, Brickey said. Instead, she threw a towel to an accomplice in the back seat and told him to clean up blood in her car.
In closing arguments, prosecutor Gabriel Brickey contended Dawn Singh was a major participant in a plan to steal high-grade marijuana from the two slain victims.
Singh is being tried under a felony-murder rule that says if a killing occurs during the commission or attempted commission of a felony (robbery or residential burglary), any person participating in the felony can also be convicted of murder.
She also faces a felony charge of evading police. After the killings, Singh led the authorities on a high-speed chase from Kerman to Fresno. During the pursuit she drove more than 130 mph and ran several stop signs and stoplights before crashing into a car outside a Fresno wrecking yard at Jensen Avenue and Golden State Boulevard, Brickey said.
If convicted of murder during the commission of a robbery or a residential burglary, Singh faces life in prison without parole.
Before her trial, Singh turned down a plea deal in which she would have been sentenced to up to 25 years in prison if she pleaded guilty or no contest to two counts of voluntary manslaughter and admit to three prior convictions that resulted in prison terms.
Sandra De Bartolo, a secretary at Kerman High School, and Gary De Bartolo, who owned an auto glass repair business, were married 42 years. They were killed in their El Mar Avenue home shortly before 10 a.m. on July 22, 2009.
Singh, Chris Bernard Butler, Andrew DaWayne Jones and Leroy Anthony Johnson were arrested after the crash; law enforcement suspects Johnson carried out the brutal killings. Reyes and Neko Wilson, who left the De Bartolo home in another vehicle, were arrested days after the killings.
Since the slayings, all six defendants have remained in Fresno County Jail.
Singh is the first one to stand trial. Reyes, Butler and Jones accepted plea deals to testify against her. But Brickey only chose Reyes and Butler to testify in Singh’s trial. Trials for Wilson and Johnson are pending. Singh chose to separate her trial from the others because Wilson and Johnson continue to file motions delaying their court dates.
Testimony in her trial in Judge John Vogt’s courtroom took about one week.
Are you going to hold everyone responsible because some fool flipped out and killed someone for the sheer pleasure of killing someone?
Fresno defense attorney Eric Green
During the trial, Brickey said sheriff’s deputies, as well as the Kerman Police Department and California Highway Patrol, had the De Bartolo home under surveillance on the morning of the slayings after a confidential informant told them that Asian gang members were going to rob the De Bartolos of cash and marijuana.
Brickey said Singh, Butler, Jones and Wilson did not go into the De Bartolo home; only Johnson and Reyes went inside.
Still, Singh played a key role, the prosecutor said.
Brickey told the jury that Butler has told law enforcement that when Singh pulled up to the De Bartolo home, she saw the front door open and said: “It’s perfect. Go in.”
Brickey said Johnson and Reyes then put on latex gloves and entered the De Bartolo home.
Inside the home, the killer sneaked up behind 62-year-old Sandra De Bartolo as she stood in her bedroom and slit her throat, Brickey said. The killer then slashed the throat of 61-year-old Gary De Bartolo, who was only in his underwear, in another bedroom while he called 911 to report his wife had been murdered.
During the trial, Brickey played Gary De Bartolo’s 911 call.
The killings were so gruesome, Brickey said, that Reyes ran through the screen of a rear sliding door and left.
Meantime, Singh drove around the block with Butler and Jones and then returned to the De Bartolo home. She then waited for a bloody Johnson to get in the car. A gun belonging to Butler and Gary De Bartolo’s wallet were later found in Singh’s Chrysler 300 after it crashed.
In defending Singh, Green said Johnson and Reyes were in the home less than seven minutes. He said no one knew Johnson was going to kill the couple.
“Why? Because he’s nuts,” Green said.
“Are you going to hold everyone responsible because some fool flipped out and killed someone for the sheer pleasure of killing someone?” Green asked the jury.
But Brickey said the law mandates that Singh be held responsible for the double murder because she was a major participant in a conspiracy to rob the couple. She also acted with “reckless indifference” after they were killed, the prosecutor said.