The woman accused of second-degree murder in the death of her sister-in-law is “distraught and depressed” over the charges, her lawyer says.
Deepak Paradkar said his client, Mandeep Punia, is also “very saddened” and that she had a “good relationship” with Poonam Litt before Litt disappeared three years ago.
“My understanding is it was a good relationship” between the two women, he said after 35-year-old Punia made a brief appearance in a Brampton courtroom Saturday morning.
“There was no animosity, it was a very healthy relationship.”
Punia was charged Friday. Her father, Kulwant Singh Litt — Poonam Litt’s father-in-law — was charged with being an accessory after the fact to murder.
Both remain in custody and he returns to court on Monday, Punia on Tuesday.
The father and daughter, while charged in the same case, have been estranged for about a year, Paradkar said outside court.
“I think there is some fraction in the family — other than that, I can’t really comment,” he said. “There are lots of things behind-the-scenes I can’t get into.”
Punia, ushered into the courtroom by security officers, stood quietly for her court appearance, dressed in a rose-coloured hoodie, her dark hair pulled back in a braid. She leaned forward as she listened to a Punjabi translator, but did not speak.
All of Saturday’s court proceedings were placed under a publication ban.
Poonam Litt went missing in 2009, and her remains were found in February in a wooded area in Caledon.
Poonam Litt’s family and friends made a strong showing at bail court Saturday morning, arriving at least an hour before proceedings began. Six of them, three males and three females, walked across the parking lot and into the Hurontario St. building accompanied by two police officers. They were later joined by others.
One family member said he was there in a show of support for Poonam, but when asked to comment he said “let the other side (talk),” meaning Punia’s family.
Later, when leaving court, he reiterated that they did not wish to speak to reporters.
“We are just upset right now,” he said.
Litt shared a home in Brampton with her husband, Manjinder Litt, their young daughter as well as extended family: his parents, sister and brother-in law, as well as that couple’s two children. She was reportedly pregnant at the time she went missing.
Peel police stressed that Manjinder Litt is not a suspect in his wife’s murder, but did say he is known to police for an unrelated issue. He was in India when his wife disappeared.
When Poonam Litt went missing, police publicly said family members knew more than they were letting on.
In fact, officers are still investigating — and are looking into so many family members that it’s unclear if any of them could act as sureties for Punia, her lawyer said.
Paradkar also said the accused’s family is “holding up well,” all things considered, “but they are a little shocked by the allegations.”
He confirmed that Punia was not living with her father at the time of their arrests.
Kulwant Singh Litt, 63, has been convicted of sex assault and criminal harassment in the past and unrelated to this case.
As for Punia, “she has to make an application to Superior Court for bail,” said Paradkar.
“We’ll definitely do that, but we’re not going to rush to do that; we need to see what the evidence is against her” and if the case is strong, he added.
— Torstar News Service