Kulwant Litt, 67, pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to manslaughter on Tuesday.
The father of a woman convicted of manslaughter for stabbing her pregnant sister-in-law in the neck has finally acknowledged his role in covering up the crime for years.
Kulwant Litt, 67, pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to manslaughter on Tuesday, admitting that he helped dispose of the body of his daughter-in-law Poonam Litt and lied repeatedly to the police and court about what really happened to Poonam.
Charges of accessory after the fact to murder and perjury were withdrawn.
During an argument in the kitchen of the family home on Feb. 4, 2009, Mandeep Punia stabbed 27-year-old Poonam Litt in the neck with a box cutter and watched her bleed out on the floor, a judge found when sentencing Punia to 12 years in prison in August.
Poonam was holding her two-year-old daughter when she was stabbed.
A jury found Punia’s husband Skinder guilty of accessory after the fact to manslaughter. He was sentenced to seven years. Skinder and Mandeep Punia were tried together.
Litt admitted to the following facts read to the court by the Crown:
He was home at the time of the argument. He’d gone upstairs to get Punia’s husband to intervene, and when he returned Poonam was bleeding.
Litt suggested an ambulance be called, but Mandeep and Skinder Punia said they would take care of it.
Litt took his granddaughter from her mother’s arms and went upstairs. He changed the girl’s bloodstained clothes and hid them in the basement ceiling.
When he went back downstairs, Poonam was dead. Mandeep and Skinder Punia were cleaning up blood in the kitchen. They discussed how to dispose of Poonam’s body. Litt suggested using a mattress cover to wrap Poonam’s body. He and Skinder drove to Caledon and threw Poonam’s body over a fence into a wooded area.
Poonam was reported missing by her sisters when she didn’t show up for work the next day.
Litt lied to the police, saying he’d heard her getting ready for work that morning.
Poonam’s husband Manjinder Litt, in India with his mother at the time, immediately returned.
But Peel police’s investigation went cold until February 2012 when Litt admitted to a relative in India that he believed his daughter had killed his daughter-in-law and that he’d helped get rid of the body.
The relative taped part of the call and informed Poonam’s husband Manjinder who went to the police. Wearing a wire, Manjinder spoke with Litt who admitted what really happened in detail. He took Manjinder to the spot in Caledon where he and Skinder had left Poonam’s body.
However, when it came time for Litt to testify at the preliminary hearing and trial for Mandeep and Skinder Punia, he claimed his account of the stabbing was made up to help him reconcile with his son. He testified that he was drunk or jet-lagged when he made those statements, and maintained the truth was that Poonam was alive and getting ready for work on the morning of Feb. 5.
Superior Court Justice Bruce Durno told Litt that even though he was not pleading guilty to perjury, his lies to the court can be considered an aggravating factor for sentencing.
Durno also informed Litt that he would likely be deported from Canada as a result of his conviction.
Litt’s attempt to plead guilty was almost derailed for a third time Tuesday when he insisted that he did not know for sure that Punia had stabbed Poonam when he helped dispose of the evidence.
“It was clear this thing had happened, whether she did it to her, or she did it to herself, how do I know?” Litt said through a Punjabi interpreter in answer to Durno’s questions to ensure Litt understood what he was pleading guilty to doing.
After a twenty-minute discussion with his lawyer, Litt agreed that he did know Punia had unlawfully killed Poonam when he helped her and Skinder Punia cover up the crime.
The plea was first delayed because Litt wanted to wait until Punia was sentenced on August 4, the Brampton Guardian reported.
But the day after Punia was sentenced, Litt’s plea was delayed again when Litt’s lawyer Kristin Bailey told the court she could no longer represent Litt for “ethical reasons because of an issue with the solicitor-client relationship.” Bailey was permitted to withdraw from the case.
Litt has been in custody since his arrest in April 2012.
A sentencing hearing is set for later this month.