MADERA - Madera County District Attorney David A. Linn announced this week he filed additional special allegations against defendant Amritraj Singh Athwal for the murder of Dharampreet Singh Jassar.
Mr. Athwal was arraigned Thursday morning on the amended complaint in Department 23 of the Madera Superior Court. The effect of these additional special allegations increases the potential penalties for Mr. Athwal to life, without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty.
D.A. Linn stated, “We do not take capital cases lightly, however, based upon the facts that have been reported to us from law enforcement, we believe that either life without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty, is the appropriate sentence in this case.”
The district attorney's office claims Athwal and another man robbed the Tackle Box mini-mart in November and before Athwal left the shop, he shot and killed Dharampreet Jassar with a handgun found two hours later in the vehicle the suspect was arrested in near Kerman. Athwal pleaded not guilty to murder charges on Tuesday.
"I will make the decision as to whether we're going to pursue the death penalty or whether we'll just keep it as a life without parole case. That is largely dependent on the evidence," said Linn.
The case is currently set for preliminary hearing on December 15, 2017 in Department 23 of the Madera Superior Court at 930am. Linn stated, “We are fully prepared to proceed with the preliminary hearing as it is currently scheduled and I will use all of the necessary resources to successfully prosecute this case.”
Linn also thanked the Madera Sheriff’s Department for their hard work and thorough investigation of this matter. Linn further stated, “Although prior election propositions and action by the State Legislature and Governor Brown have stripped law enforcement of effective tools to properly punish the defendant, my staff and I are fully committed to pursuing the most serious penalties available under exiting California law.”
Athwal's accomplice is still on the run, Madera County Sheriff, Jay Varney, says someone is assigned to the case daily as they continue their search for the second suspect. "We're still processing evidence from the vehicle the first suspect was stopped in the morning of the crime. We don't have all the results back on that yet, and we're following up on some other investigative leads to determine who the second suspect is," said Varney.
A GOFUNDME account was set up to help the family of the shooting victim. In the last twenty days 323 people helped raise over $23,000 to help with the family’s expenses.
Detectives continue to search for the second suspect and any further information related to this case. Anyone with information is asked to call the Madera County Sheriff’s Department at (559) 675-7770 or Crime Stoppers at (559) 498-7867.