Brother of murdered doctor takes stand
Day 19 of the Preston Strong murder trial got under way with a pair of defense witnesses called to the stand because they wouldn't be able to testify later this month when the defense presents its side of the case.
The first of the witnesses Tuesday was Dr. Jagdish Gill, the older brother of Yuma physician Santinder Gill, who was found dead inside his home at 4596 W. La Quinta Loop on Nov. 1, 2007. He had been suffocated and had blunt-force trauma to his head. Investigators also found that the home was filled with natural gas and lit candles, and a large sum of money was missing.
Strong has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of kidnapping, one count of armed robbery, one count of burglary, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of attempted arson in the murder.
During her questioning of Dr. Jagdish Gill, defense attorney Kristi Riggins asked him about some information he and other members of the family provided to Yuma police shortly after the murder that could have been a motive for someone other than her client to have killed his brother.
Prosecutor William Katz of the Yuma County Attorney's Office objected to the line of questioning, saying that under Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 15.2(d), the defense had not provided the prosecution with the proper written notice prior to the trial that it had intended to introduce this evidence.
Superior Court Judge John Nelson, who is presiding over the bench trial, sustained Katz's objection and ordered Riggins not to continue with the line of questioning.
During his testimony, Jagdish Gill answered many questions about his younger brother, saying he had worked at a veterans hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., for over 25 years before retiring from there. He said that his brother and Dr. Sudeer Gogte, the owner of the Desert Heart Vascular Center, were roommates in medical school, and that Gogte had asked him to come work with him.
“(Santinder Gill) wanted to be useful,” said of his brother. “He didn't want to be bored.”
Gill, who also testified that he spoke with his brother quite regularly, said another reason his brother chose to come to Yuma was for a change of scenery after a 2003 divorce from his wife.
“(Santinder Gill) was kind of devastated. Although their marriage was on the rocks, he had no idea how bad their relationship was.”
He testified that despite his brother being on antidepressants, he was not depressed by the divorce. In fact, he said, his brother never seemed happier, having taken up photography and expressing a newly found interest in religious studies. He had also become interested in cooking.
“He was at his happiest in Yuma. He was quite an interesting person in that aspect.”
Gill also testified about calling his brother the day after he was murdered and not recognizing the voice of the man who answered the phone. He said at the time, he was not aware that his brother had been murdered and that the phone had been found by a canal bank.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.