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Tapes by Virk Accuse Her Husband of Abuse

Trial: Woman who allegedly tried to drown her two children made anguished audio recordings about alleged beatings and death threats.

June 29, 2002|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Before she allegedly tried to drown her children, a distraught Port Hueneme mother recorded five audio tapes in which she documented alleged spousal abuse and death threats by her then-husband.

Transcripts of those recordings were presented as evidence Friday in the Ventura County Superior Court trial of 42-year-old Narinder Virk.

On the recordings, Virk says in her native language, Punjabi, that her husband beat her daily and threatened to kill her.

"Sometimes he gets after me with the knife, sometimes he beats me with the stick," she says, according to the transcripts. "I don't know when he is going to finish me."

Virk, an Indian immigrant who cannot read or write, goes on to say that Santokh Virk threatened to kill her and throw her body in the ocean.

The couple divorced after she allegedly tried to drown their son and daughter, then ages 9 and 6, in Channel Islands Harbor on Jan. 12, 2000. Virk faces two counts of attempted murder and has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

The translated tape-recordings were presented by the prosecution as evidence of Virk's alleged plan to kill her children. But they also support the defense theory that Virk was a battered wife who suffered a mental breakdown after years of abuse.

The tapes, none of which are dated, were discovered by police after the alleged drowning attempt. Four were found in a black duffel bag at the Virks' apartment and one was found in a storm drain near the harbor.

The tape in the storm drain was thrown there by Virk as she walked her children to the water's edge that night, according to the testimony of her son, Sonny, who later led police to the site.

Prosecutors contend that recording, the shortest of the five, contains evidence of Virk's intention to kill her children that night to punish her allegedly abusive and adulterous husband.

"You will not talk with children, neither with son nor with daughter," she says, according to the transcripts. "Now you will be only talking with these cassettes."

According to the transcripts, Virk goes on to say, "No one is going to take you[r] income, neither your son nor your daughter. This income you have only dogs are going to eat it."

On the other tapes, Virk accuses her husband of beating her daily, once with a rolling pin. Transcripts show she also accused him of having affairs with two women, filing false insurance claims over a fake car accident and keeping her trapped in their apartment.

During two days of testimony this week, Santokh Virk denied all of those accusations when confronted by Narinder Virk's attorney. He told jurors that he never beat his wife.

In the transcripts, Virk's words ramble in long, emotional sentences. She appears angry, desperate and paranoid, stating more than once, "He wants to kill me ... I am recording these tapes so that after my death he cannot say that I committed suicide."

At one point, she states that the situation makes her feel "like a lunatic."

Jurors read through the lengthy transcripts for several hours Friday before defense attorney Cynthia Ellington called her first witnesses.

Two teachers testified that they never observed signs of abuse on the Virk children. Sonny and his sister, Harpreet, testified that their mother hit them.

A former Port Hueneme police officer also testified that on three occasions he was called to the Virks' apartment, once for an alleged domestic dispute.

Anthony Paradis, who recently retired, told jurors that Santokh Virk appeared to have been drinking prior to one call in April 1999. But he observed no signs of physical abuse to Narinder Virk, and he and his partner left the apartment.

Paradis testified that two months earlier, he had gone to the same residence after a neighbor reported that Santokh Virk had left for India and abandoned his family. Paradis said he observed no food in the house, only a container of milk. He said Narinder Virk was crying and appeared fearful of her husband.

On cross-examination, Paradis acknowledged that he never filed a criminal report or child neglect report with the Department of Social Services about the visit. Testimony is scheduled to resume Tuesday.

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