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VENTURA COUNTY

Woman Ordered Not to Contact Her 2 Children

Court: Judge grants prosecutor's request. Mother is accused of trying to drown her young son and daughter.

July 06, 2001|ROBIN SHULMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Superior Court judge has barred a woman accused of trying to drown her son and daughter from any contact with the children.

Judge Bruce Clark ordered Narinder Virk not to contact her 7-year-old daughter, Harpreet, or 10-year-old son, Sonny.

Deputy Dist. Atty Adam Pearlman said he made the request last month to protect the children, who suffer from nightmares and fear their mother, according to a therapist who assessed the children.

"Any time they see her or someone talks about her they're further traumatized by their memory of what happened," Pearlman said.

"This is to make the trial as easy as possible for the children and ensure that they would be able to testify truthfully."

But Deputy Public Defender Christina Briles has called the request disingenuous. She said the children are in India and their mother has not attempted to contact them for a year and a half.

"There really was no necessity for the criminal court to come in after a year and a half and request no contact," Briles said. She said family court would have made a decision in August on supervised visitation. The trial is set to begin in September.

Virk was arrested in January 2000 after she allegedly pushed her children into the icy water off Channel Islands Harbor and held their heads under. Sonny managed to swim away, and a former lifeguard responded to his cries for help.

Prosecutors have charged Virk with two counts of attempted murder.

After the incident, the Sikh community in Los Angeles County rallied around Virk, and strangers posted Virk's $500,000 bail. Virk has stayed in the homes of Sikh families, who helped her find work as a caretaker for an elderly couple.

"We felt that she's a victim of circumstances," said Amarjit Marwah, a Los Angeles dentist and community leader who organized fund-raisers to raise Virk's bail. "She was being beaten by her husband and neglected."

Virk was isolated and fearful, unable to speak English and illiterate even in her native tongue, supporters said.

The Sikh faith includes water purification rituals, and Marwah said the Sikh community believes Virk did not intend to drown her children but to immerse and cleanse herself and them.

Briles said her client does not remember the event, and contends that Virk was driven to madness by a culture that measured her value by the success of her marriage and threatened to disown her and her children if she failed.

Virk's husband was said to be traveling to India to divorce her at the time of the incident.

In a letter to the court, therapist Tamara Pennington wrote that "forcing the children to see their mother would do harm."

Virk ran into her children at a San Fernando Valley temple in January. Briles said Virk did not attempt to talk to the children, but Pearlman said the meeting frightened the children and could have been prevented by a court order.

Briles said her client never intended to force her children to see her but wanted to visit them with supervision if they were willing.

"It's just adding abuse upon abuse by saying, 'No, she's to have no more contact,' " Briles said.

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