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Defense Accuses Ex-Husband of Years of Abuse

Court: Santokh Virk denies beating his former wife or isolating her from family and friends. She is on trial for allegedly trying to drown their children.


A lawyer for a distraught Port Hueneme mother charged with trying to drown her two children accused the woman's ex-husband Thursday of abuse so severe it drove her client to the brink of insanity.

"You abused her for 20 years, isn't that true?" asked Deputy Public Defender Cynthia Ellington.

But liquor store owner Santokh Virk denied that he beat his ex-wife, Narinder Virk, and disputed defense allegations that he isolated her in the family's Port Hueneme apartment by cutting off her contact with their family and friends.

Santokh Virk took the witness stand for a second day Thursday in the trial of his former spouse.

Narinder Virk faces two counts of attempted murder for allegedly trying to drown the couple's son and daughter, then ages 9 and 6, in Channel Islands Harbor on Jan. 12, 2000.

She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Mental Breakdown

Ellington told jurors in her opening statement earlier this week that Narinder Virk was "brutalized" by her former spouse and suffered a mental breakdown on the night of the alleged drowning attempt.

The defense is expected to open its case today with testimony from medical experts who examined the 42-year-old defendant after her arrest.

During Thursday's court proceedings, Ellington attacked Santokh Virk's credibility and questioned him at length about his marriage to Narinder Virk.

The couple wed in India in the late 1970s. Santokh Virk testified it was an arranged marriage--and one he tried to end three years ago after the couple's constant fighting became intolerable.

Under questioning Wednesday by the prosecutor, Santokh Virk, 43, denied that those fights ever turned violent or led to police involvement.

Police Called to Home

But on cross-examination Thursday, he admitted that police were called to his home once after his former wife tried to stop him from leaving their apartment and he threw a suitcase over her head.

"The suitcase never touched her," he said.

Asked by Ellington if he ever yelled at his wife, Santokh Virk admitted that he did, but testified that she always initiated the screaming matches.

Beyond the allegations of physical abuse, Ellington questioned whether Santokh Virk so tightly controlled his ex-wife that she suffered a mental breakdown.

The former husband acknowledged that Narinder Virk could not read or drive a car and barely spoke English.

She had no money of her own, no checking account or credit cards.

And Santokh Virk testified that to wash clothes she would have to get coins from his truck.

"If she wanted it, I would give her quarters for laundry," he said.

During a break in the courtroom proceedings, Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Simon objected to Ellington's line of questioning.

"Who is on trial?" he asked.

But Superior Court Judge Ken Riley said he would allow Ellington to continue.

Poisoning Allegation

At one point Thursday, Ellington asked Santokh Virk whether he had ever accused Narinder Virk of trying to poison him.

He said he had not.

Then Ellington showed him a sworn declaration from divorce court in which he made that accusation.

Santokh Virk admitted that the poisoning accusation may have been a lie, but he told jurors: "It might be possible, too."

Testimony is scheduled to resume today.

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