Local News

Thursday, Jul 26 2012 06:11 PM

Ice cream truck driver gets life without parole in double murder

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Narinder Kumar used headphones and an interpreter during his sentencing for the murder of his brother Moti Lal and Balwinder Singh.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Family and friends of murder victims Moti Lal and Balwinder Singh gather around prosecutor Arthur Norris, (fourth from right) following the sentencing of Narinder Kumar who was found guilty of the murders.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Longstanding intrafamilial jealousy boiled over into a bloody Christmas Day attack in which Narinder Kumar stabbed his brother and a business associate to death in an ice cream warehouse, prosecutor Arthur Norris said.

A 911 call captured the screams of the stabbed men and their pleas for Kumar to stop. Then, once the voices went silent, the sound of a knife being plunged into their bodies could still be heard.

Kumar, 58, was sentenced Thursday afternoon to life without the possibility of parole.

Norris said he's pleased Kumar will spend the rest of his life behind bars. Family and friends of the deceased are also pleased with the sentence, he said, but devastated by the deaths of two "extremely decent" people.

Family declined to comment following the sentencing and made no victim impact statement during the proceedings in Department 7 of Kern County Superior Court.

Deputy Public Defender Christina Matias said she will immediately file an appeal on Kumar's behalf. She said he's sorry about the deaths.

"He believed it was self-defense," she said.

Matias said Kumar suffers from a left temporal lobe defect which can leave him out of control of his emotions. She said he was melancholy during the trial and was doing "OK" Thursday.

In March, Kumar was found competent to stand trial. A jury found him guilty June 27 of two counts of murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon other than a gun.

Norris said he doesn't think the temporal lobe issue played any role in Kumar's actions.

Christmas Day rampage

In an interview with Kumar conducted by Bakersfield police, Kumar admits stabbing his brother, Moti Lal, 53, and Lal's business partner, 54-year-old Balwinder Singh. During the interview, a transcript of which is included in redacted reports filed in court, Kumar said he stabbed them because he believed the men meant to kill him.

Kumar told police he had longstanding issues with Singh, the reports say. Kumar was an independent ice cream truck driver who bought products from GMB Ice Cream Warehouse Inc. at 644 Belle Terrace.

Lal and Singh owned the company. Kumar told police Singh had threatened him because Kumar was buying ice cream from cheaper suppliers, according to the reports.

On Dec. 25, 2009, Kumar entered the ice cream warehouse armed with two knives.

Meeka Mander, another ice cream truck driver who was standing outside the warehouse, said he ran back in after hearing screams, according to Mander's statement to police included in the reports. Mander said Lal had already been stabbed and Kumar had turned on Singh.

Mander ran up to the struggling men and was able to disarm Kumar, but suffered cuts to a hand in the process, the reports say. Kumar, undeterred, pulled the other knife and resumed his attack on Singh.

Mander, fearing for his life, ran outside and called 911, according to the reports.

Detectives interviewed other witnesses and told Kumar his self-defense claim didn't add up, the reports say. They also made note of the fact that Kumar continued to stab the men after they'd fallen to the ground, and there were at least 15 stab wounds in Lal's back.

"I - it's just - there's too much - it's - it's unbelievable," the reports say one detective said of Kumar's story.

In addition to physical evidence from the scene, a 911 call made by Lal was played during the trial. Norris, the prosecutor, said it's not often you hear two people murdered on tape, and it left even him shaken.

Lal called 911 after being stabbed and while Kumar was apparently stabbing Singh. A transcript of the call included in court documents says Lal asked Kumar how he ever wronged him, and Kumar responded, "What did you ever do for me?"

The following chilling exchange took place near the end of the call:

"I'm already dead; why are you still stabbing me?" Lal asks.

"Sir? Hello? Hello?" a dispatcher asks.

"I'm dying! Stop now...Dying...," Lal says.

"You're not dead yet!," Kumar says.

"I'm dying..." Lal says.

"Sir...? Hello...? Hello...?" the dispatcher asks.

Lal says nothing further. The only sound, Arthur said, was the continued pounding of the knife into Lal's body.

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