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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | Port Hueneme

Mother Aided in Case of Attempted Murder

March 21, 2000|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT

More than 150 people gathered at a Malibu estate Sunday and dined on imported South Asian delicacies and listened to live Indian music before donating $225,000 for Narinder Virk, a Port Hueneme woman charged with trying to drown her two young children.

The money is being raised to free Virk, who has been held in Ventura County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail since her arrest Jan. 12. Supporters hope to raise the bail in cash before her scheduled trial June 20, they said.

Unlike using collateral to free someone from jail, a bail amount posted totally in cash can be refunded after trial if the defendant appears for all court proceedings and does not flee.

Virk, a Sikh from Punjab in northern India, is accused of pushing her son and daughter, 9 and 6, into Channel Islands Harbor and holding their heads underwater. A resident who heard screams rescued the three, police said.

After her arrest, about three dozen people contacted Virk's lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Christina Briles, and asked how they could help. A support group was started. It meets regularly and solicits donations on the Internet.

Virk's supporters believe she is a battered wife who momentarily lost her mind when her husband flew to India to seek a divorce. Such a breakup in the Virks' culture would mean she had failed and could be shunned by her relatives.

The supporters include members of the Sikh and Indian communities in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, as well as doctors, lawyers, psychologists, parents, a county social worker and survivors of abuse.

Of the money that was raised, $175,000 will be saved toward Virk's bail; the remaining $50,000 will be used for defense experts and her living expenses if she is freed, Briles said. The money raised is in cash and checks.

Sunday's event was hosted by the Society for Battered Asian Women at the 10-acre seaside estate of Dr. Amarjit S. Marwah, a Sikh community leader and dentist who is the former president of the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission.

Guests paid $100 each to attend the fund-raiser, which also included a buffet and traditional Indian dancers, said Briles, who made an additional donation by buying a book and some compact discs at the auction. Other donated auction items included artwork, pottery and candles.

"Most of these people want to help and support her because they understand her cultural background and they have an appreciation for what happens when women are abused," Briles said.

The attorney said a large chunk of the money came from an Indian family in Los Angeles--two brothers and their father, who ponied up more than $50,000. Another $5,000 came from an Arizona man who read about the fund-raiser online.

Briles said Marwah, who donated the use of his estate and all the food and entertainment, plans to solicit a large portion of the bail from friends he has in professional and religious circles. Marwah has been attending Virk's court hearings.

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