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Ex-Husband Denies Abuse in Attempted Drowning Case

Court: Port Hueneme couple had a troubled marriage, father admits. Woman is charged with trying to kill their two children after learning he had filed for divorce.

June 27, 2002|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The ex-husband of a Port Hueneme woman accused of trying to drown their two children told a jury Wednesday that he never beat, kicked, cheated on or threatened to kill his former wife, as she alleged.

But he acknowledged that their marriage had been deeply troubled and that he had secretly sought a divorce in their native India three years ago to get away from her.

"She would just cuss at me and tell me, 'You are just like a dog, going everywhere,' " said 43-year-old Santokh Virk, testifying about his ex-wife's allegations of infidelity. He said the couple fought often. But he denied that the arguments led to violence or police involvement.

The husband's testimony stands in stark contrast to the portrait of marital discord offered by the defense during opening statements in the trial of 42-year-old Narinder Virk in Ventura County Superior Court this week.

She is charged with two counts of attempted murder for allegedly trying to drown her son and daughter, then 9 and 6, in Channel Islands Harbor on Jan. 12, 2000. She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Narinder Virk's attorney contends she was a battered wife who suffered a mental breakdown after learning that her husband had walked out on the family and boarded a plane for India.

But prosecutors say the defendant was so angry that she decided to punish her spouse by killing his children. The couple have since divorced.

In court Wednesday, Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Simon sought to discredit the abuse allegations by offering evidence that Santokh Virk provided for his family and was not the lout portrayed by the defense in its opening statement.

An employee at Santokh Virk's Port Hueneme liquor store testified that when his boss left for a six-month trip to India three years ago he made arrangements for his wife and children to get groceries and cash from the store and did not leave them destitute.

However, Deputy Public Defender Cynthia Ellington noted on cross-examination that the groceries consisted mostly of snack foods and gallons of milk.

Santokh Virk testified that his marriage was arranged. The couple lived in India for several years before he moved to the United States in 1984. The next year, he married an American woman to stay in the country legally. He said he later sent for Narinder to join him in California

By 1997 marital problems had begun, he testified. They argued often. She accused him of infidelity. In late 1998, Santokh Virk left for India without telling his wife and stayed for six months. It was during that time, he said, that he filed for divorce.

He told the jury that when she received the court papers from India in late 1999 she refused to accept them. It was around that time that he decided to leave again.

On Jan. 11, 2000, Narinder Virk called the liquor store looking for her husband and a clerk told her he was on a plane to India, according to court testimony. Three hours later, she allegedly walked the children, who could not swim, to the harbor and pushed them in.

Ellington began to cross-examine Santokh Virk late Wednesday. Under her initial questioning, he acknowledged traveling on to India to visit his sick father despite learning in an overseas airport that his daughter, Harpreet, was hospitalized from the incident. He said he returned to the U.S. three days later.

Testimony is scheduled to resume today.

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