Panthic, Community

Shocking Murder-Suicide of Sikh Family Near Atlanta

By Anju Kaur | February 07, 2013

Shivinder Singh Grover, 53, killed his wife, Damanjit Kaur, 47, their older son Sartaj, 12, and younger son Gurtej, 5, before committing suicide in their suburban Atlanta apartment. 
 
“They were such sweet kids, wearing their dastaars,” said Satwant Kaur Bhatia, a family friend from Norcross. “How could this happen?”
 
“The entire community is on an (emotional) roller coaster,” said Parvinder Singh Arora, spokesman for the SEWA (Sikh Educational Welfare Association) Gurdwara in Roswell.  “No one ever witnessed any signs or indications that anything was wrong.”
 
According to the Johns Creek Police Department, officers received a call on Feb. 4 from Damanjit Kaur’s employer that she had not shown up for work Monday morning, at 8 a.m. This was was highly unusual, so the police was asked to check on her. 
 
Just after 11:30 a.m., two officers went to Damanjit’s Aylesbury Farms apartment home on Abbots Bridge Road and found the front door slightly ajar. One of the officers could see a man near the door but did not get a response when he asked him many times to open it. As one of the officers opened the door wide open, the other “was able to see that the male subject had hung himself in the foyer,” the police report states. “We moved into the foyer slightly, and saw an adult female laying on the floor.”
 
Another officer was called to the apartment, and crime scene tape was placed around its perimeter. Two of the officers went into the home. And that is where the report ends. All information about the children is redacted.
 
But according to a Fulton County Medical Examiner’s news release, the boys died of sharp stab wounds to the neck. And Damanjit Kaur died of blunt-force injuries to the head. 
 
“The crime scene was very horrific,” said Rosemary Taylor, spokeswoman for the police department. “It took detectives quite a while, working until late (Tuesday) afternoon” to piece it together. But the official manner of death had to be determined by the medical examiner.
 
“It was not until the medical examiner walked through it (apartment) and took the bodies that he found what we already knew.” Murder-suicide.  
 
“By any stretch of the imagination, we don’t see it happening the way it has been reported,” Parvinder Singh said. “It’s absolutely stunning, devastating, that we have to accept this has happened.”
 
Parvinder Singh had known the family since about three-and-a-half years ago when they there moved from Michigan. The family attended all the gurdwaras in the area, but this was one of the closer ones to their home.
 
Approximately 1,000 Sikh families live in the Atlanta area, Parvinder Singh said. And nearly 150 people attend the SEWA gurdwara on Sundays. 
 
“It’s a close, tight-knit family,” he said of the sangat.
 
The Grovers were a part of that sangat. The parents often did langar seva. And the kids were very involved in youth programs. 
 
Sartaj, who has just turned 12, could recite all of Japji Sahib, sing kirtan and attended all the Khalsa camps. Two Fridays ago, he gave a speech on Baba Deep Singh’s parkash, Parvinder Singh said. And, as for his younger brother, he can still imagine Gurtej sitting in his father’s lap during divaan. “They were excellent, outstanding kids.”
 
“This was unusual, sad and tragic,” Taylor added. “There has not been a murder in this city” until now. Johns Creek was incorporated in 2006, and is home to many South Asian professionals. Families move to Johns Creek for its schools, especially the three high schools, which are in the top two percent, nationally, she said.
 
Taylor was at the scene Monday morning, managing the news media. The neighbors told her that the father would take the boys to the bus stop every morning, she said. The other kids and their parents saw the police cars and the media when they came from school, and came to see what happened.
 
“They were close to a lot of people,” said Inder Paul Singh, spokesman for the Gurdwara Sadh Sangat of Georgia, in Tucker. “They were a devout, exemplary family.” Last summer, Gurtej was too young for Khalsa camp so his parents volunteered for the week so he could attend.
 
Damanjit Kaur worked for Emory Healthcare. Shivinder Singh, a graduate of the University of Michigan, was a high-level executive.
 
“Shivinder was a very respectful person,” Inder Paul Singh said. “He talked respectfully to everybody, said Sat Sri Akal to everyone… He was not a person who had any animosity, anxiety or depression. He came to gurdwara with seva in his mind.”
 
When his parents came to visit from India last year, they all did Nishaan Sahib seva and distributed mithaaee, Inder Paul Singh said. They arrived from India on Wednesday evening after hearing the news.
 
“We knew him as a different person,” he said. “It’s hard for us to believe he would be doing any of that to his own family.
 
“I have never heard of anything like this happening in our Sikh community,” he added. “Not in our own community.” Inder Paul Singh has lived in the Atlanta area for about 20 years, and in the United States for about 37 years. 
 
The investigation is still open.
 
“We would like to find a motive,” Taylor said. Detectives will be investigating further, looking at computer files for suicide notes and interviewing family member, which is happening now.
 
The last time Surinder Kaur Tuteja, of Norcross, saw Damanjit was at the Sunday divaan on Jan. 20 at the SEWA Gurdwara, she told SikhNN. Her mother, Satwant, and Damanjit shared a gutkaa while doing Sukhmani Sahib.
 
 Damanjit and her husband did a lot of seva, she also said. She would take the Friday langar seva when no one else would. And she even saw Shivinder help his wife do the langar dishes. 
 
On Sunday afternoon, Damanjit talked to her sister in Michigan, then had to go to take care of groceries, Surinder Kaur said. That may have been the last time anyone heard from her.
 
Sometime between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, Shivinder Singh ended it all. 
 
 

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The funeral for the family will be held on Feb. 7, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Wages and Sons Funeral Home, 1040 Main St., Stone Mountain, Georgia. Kirtan will follow at Gurdwara Guru Nanak Mission Society, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., 1158 Rockbridge Rd., Norcross, Georgia.