KENT, Wash. — King County prosecutors say a handyman and his girlfriend--who police say admitted to stealing cash from a 60-year-old man while he lay bleeding and unconscious on the floor of his garage, have been freed from jail and have not been charged with a crime.
Kuldip Singh’s family says they and their community are outraged and believe the couple should not have been released with no bail and no charges.
“He was everything for my family,” said Singh’s widow Pam Gill, who told KIRO-7 News she watched her husband die after an altercation with a man and a woman the family hired to install a new water heater for $150.
Kent police said that on the night of Feb. 22, Singh hired a man and a woman to come over and install the new water heater. When the couple argued they weren’t paid enough for the work, the man started draining and un-installing the new tank, according to court documents. When Singh arrived home, an argument began. The man was tipping the water heater to its side when Singh tried to push it back upright, said police.
Charging documents indicate the man told police he asked Singh if he “had the hot water heater before letting go and walking away,” according to the Kent police probable cause statement.
“My dad was pushing the water heater back up while the man was pulling it out,” said Singh’s daughter, Pinky Brar. “My mom was on one of those steps there, watching.”
Singh’s family believes he had been assaulted during the struggle. The man police hired told police he left Singh holding up the falling water heater. Singh collapsed to the floor unconscious. Gill said she noticed he was bleeding from his nose--which had been broken--according to preliminary autopsy results.
According to the police report, the man said when he walked out of Singh’s garage, he saw the hot water tank hit Singh somewhere in the abdomen but continued to leave because he knew he hadn’t done anything to cause the injury.
The police report said the woman then came back into the garage and removed Singh’s wallet from his pants before leaving.
Gill estimated Singh had about $2,000 in his wallet and pocket. “She dropped some of the money,” Gill said while recounting what she’d seen. “I tried to get some. I got only a little bit, but she still took it all.”
Police said the 27-year-old woman admitted to stealing the wallet from Singh while he was on the ground unconscious but said she didn’t know he was dead because, at the time she stole his wallet, he was “snoring.”
“A real human would make sure there’s an airway going or the man is OK,” said Brar. “But she just took the wallet and ran.”
Neighbors told KIRO 7 News their home surveillance cameras captured a video showing the couple’s vehicle leaving, and Kent police tracked the vehicle in East Kent. The man and woman, ages 31 and 27, were arrested.
Kent police say the couple admitted using $200 of the money to “buy narcotics and other items,” before throwing the wallet out the vehicle’s window.
Singh’s widow and daughter say the insult came when prosecutors informed them that the couple was released from jail without being charged with any crime while the investigation continues. They were also told an autopsy might not prove Singh died from an assault but that his heart may have stopped sometime during the altercation.
The King County prosecutor’s office told KIRO 7 News the couple was potentially being charged with theft and with more serious charges for the assault accusations, pending details from the investigation.
“Just because they were released by a judge doesn’t mean we’re ignoring this case,” said King County prosecutor’s spokesman Casey McNerthney. “We want people to be reassured that we’re paying attention in this case. We know police are working on this, investigating it, and as soon as it’s referred to us we expect to review it promptly.”
But Singh’s family is asking for justice for the theft, which they call common sense.
“How do have the heart to steal from an unconscious man, like over some money for drugs?” Brar asked. “That’s really low.”
Singh’s family said he worked as a taxi owner/operator for more than 30 years, and he and his family were active in the religious community of Sikhs. They said his funeral is being planned to be held this Friday.