Police detail motive in Fresno double homicide. Prosecutors could seek death

Darashan Singh Dhanjan, 65, is accused of slaying two people Sunday, Sept. 9 2018 in southeast Fresno.
Darashan Singh Dhanjan, 65, is accused of slaying two people Sunday, Sept. 9 2018 in southeast Fresno. Fresno Police Department

A family disagreement appears to be the cause of a double homicide Sunday in which a man and his wife were shot and killed by their son-in-law’s father, police chief Jerry Dyer said.

Darshan Singh Dhanjan, 65, has been charged with two counts of murder and one count of criminal threats. Prosecutors said Tuesday they might seek the death penalty.

But that decision in Fresno County Superior Court will have to wait.

On Wednesday, Judge Michael G. Idiart suspended criminal proceedings after defense attorney Kojo Moore called into question Dhanjan’s competency to stand trial. Idiart ordered Dr. Howard Terrell, a psychiatrist, to examine Dhanjan in jail.

Idiart then ordered Dhanjan, Moore and prosecutor Robert Romanacce to return to court on Oct. 17 to discuss Terrell’s report. Until then, Dhanjan will be held in the Fresno County Jail in lieu of $3 million.

It is potentially a death penalty case because charges include the special circumstance of multiple murders. But a decision about whether to seek the death penalty will be made later, a statement from the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office said.

Dyer said Dhanjan became upset because the victims he killed — Ravinder Pal Singh, 59, and Rajbir Kaur, 62 — had been living in the home, which is owned by their daughter and her husband (Dhanjan’s son), and were supposed to move out but refused.

They had been living there six months and had just gotten their green cards allowing them to stay in the United States permanently, Dyer said. Also sharing the home in the 5300 block of East Tower Avenue were Dhanjan and his wife. All are originally from India, Dyer said.

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“It’s a very tragic case,” Dyer said. “It’s unfortunate because threats had been made” by Dhanjan toward his daughter-in-law.

However, “the family did not feel he was capable of carrying out those threats,” Dyer added.

Saturday, the suspect confronted the couple about moving out. “The female victim said, ‘No, we’re not leaving. We’re staying,’ ” Dyer said.

Dharjan legally owned the handgun he bought three months ago, and recently had been to a firing range, Dyer said. It’s legal to keep a gun inside a home without possessing a concealed carry permit, he said.

The daughter of the victims was almost a victim herself, Dyer said. She was upstairs and heard loud noises and went downstairs, bringing her young daughter with her.

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“She saw her mom and dad lying in the recliner” after they had been shot, Dyer said.

Dhanjan told her, “I’m going to kill you, too,” and pointed the gun at her but it did not fire. It appears he had tried to get the gun to fire but “it may have jammed,” Dyer said.

She ran upstairs and barricaded herself in a bedroom and called police. The attempt at shooting her is why

Dhanjan is charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

The homicides were captured on the home’s video surveillance camera.

After she went upstairs, Dhanjan called his wife and told her what he had done. He hid the gun inside his bedroom then got in a car and drove away. Based on the car description, he was pulled over a few miles away and arrested. He was cooperative, police said.

Staff writer Pablo Lopez contributed to this report. Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold