Woman accused of killing Ottawa mom Jagtar Gill expressed condolences on Facebook

Published: April 10, 2014

34-year-old mother of two held on charge of first-degree murder

SHAAMINI YOGARETNAM AND MEGHAN HURLEY
POSTMEDIA NEWS

OTTAWA — Four days after Jagtar Gill was found stabbed to death in her Barrhaven home, Gurpreet Ronald commented on a Citizen article about the gruesome slaying, offering her condolences to a grieving family.

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Gurpreet Ronald, 34, is facing first-degree murder charges in the slashing death of Jagtar Gill, 43, in Barrhaven in January 2014. Image from Facebook

“My prayers and my thoughts are with the Gill family,” the beautiful 34-year-old mother of two young daughters wrote on Facebook, where she uses her maiden name, Brar.

On Wednesday, Ronald appeared in an Ottawa court, charged with first-degree murder in the same Jan. 29 slaying.

Not only did the two women live just steps from each other in a growing development off Greenbank Road that is home to many Indian families — Ronald on Towhee Place and Gill on Brambling Way — their children played together, and the families were longtime friends. Ronald and the victim’s widower, Bhupinderpal Gill, are both OC Transpo bus drivers.

The killing, which is alleged to have occurred on the day of the Gills’ 17th wedding anniversary, while Bhupinderpal Gill and his teenage daughter were out getting gifts for Jagtar, has raised rampant allegations in the Sikh community that the co-workers were linked romantically.

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It’s an accusation that Bhupinderpal Gill has denied, family members told the Citizen.

“Right now, at least we know who she is,” Kulwinder Sidhu, Jagtar Gill’s brother-in-law, said after seeing the accused during her first court appearance Wednesday. “It’s all clear.

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Jagtar Gill was found dead in her home in January by her husband and teenage daughter. Shaamini Yogaretnam, Ottawa Citizen

“Our community members are talking like, ‘Why she (allegedly) did that, what was the plan, is she alone or anybody else involved with it?’”

Police have not said whether they expect to lay further charges, but they have maintained that the investigation is ongoing and that they have not closed the case with the laying of a single charge.

Ronald, who police said had not been co-operating with investigators, was asked by police to come to the Greenbank Road station Tuesday to give a blood sample. When she did, they arrested her.

Ottawa police Insp. John Maxwell said that “DNA is a well-known investigative technique that is used in literally every significant file these days, including all homicides.” Maxwell would not comment on whether it played a role in the arrest.

Police said that arrest would lead to followup interviews with other people.

In the early days of the investigation, police had said there wasn’t evidence to suggest that the fatal attack on a woman alone in her home recovering from surgery was targeted.

Thinking the attack might have been random, neighbours and members of the Sikh community feared for their safety.

Sikh-India-Punjab-crime-Canada

Gurpreet Ronald, 34, is facing first-degree murder charges in the slashing death of Jagtar Gill, 43, in Barrhaven in January 2014. Image from Facebook

“At the onset of the investigation, we weren’t sure what we had,” Staff Sgt. Bruce Pirt of the major crime unit said Wednesday. But, “very, very quickly we progressed to learn that this wasn’t a random act of violence in the neighbourhood.”

Details of the killing — the victim’s wrists and throat were cut and blood splattered on the walls of her family home — had suggested an act of anger to investigators.

In court Wednesday, Ronald hid her face behind her long black hair and avoided making eye contact with anyone, including her husband, Jason Ronald, also an OC Transpo bus driver, who sat in the front row, and Bhupinderpal, seated with his children.

Police sources say there had been signs of trouble in the couple’s marriage, but still, Ronald leaned eagerly forward when his wife appeared.

“My family is obviously going through a tough time,” he said at the family’s home Wednesday after his wife had been remanded into custody.

He said the family will not be commenting further.

Defence lawyer Bruce Engel said his client was remaining calm.

“She is actually quite together,” Engel said. “Very upset and quite shocked by the charges, but responsive and able to understand my questions and able to respond to them.”

“Her husband is in shock,” Engel said. “He’s probably in more shock than she is.”

Craig Watson, president of the union representing OC Transpo drivers, said the killing and Wednesday’s charge “touches all of OC.”

Members of the union are friends with both Ronald, who has been a driver for seven years, and Bhupinderpal.

“It’s tough,” Watson said.

The union called the charging of one of its members with such a serious crime “unchartered territory.” In the 23 years Watson has been with OC Transpo, he said he’s never known of an employee accused of murder.

Jagtar’s sister, Balwinder Chahal, said that since her sister was killed, she’s been left with nagging thoughts, wondering who was responsible and why anyone would want to harm her. While the arrest and charge doesn’t get rid of those thoughts, she said, it has brought some relief for the family.

It’s the first moment in a long process that will hopefully bring about the answers the family wants, Kulwinder said. “We have to wait.”

Ronald is next scheduled to appear in court by video feed on April 16.

Her lawyer plans to prepare for a bail hearing.

syogaretnam@ottawacitizen.com

twitter.com/shaaminiwhy

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