Both mother and son will face trial in the killing of a Middletown man in 2008, a judge ruled at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing Monday evening.
Following more than 10 hours of testimony on Friday and Monday, Magisterial District Court Judge Walter Strohl Jr. ruled that Bhavnaben Ingle, 52, and her son, Parth Ingle, who are both charged with first-degree murder in connection with the 2008 killing of Arunkumar Ingle, will be held for court.
"It has been a long and difficult hearing process and I appreciate both side's arguments," Strohl said in court. "...I order that both defendants be held for court."
An arraignment date was set for April 12.
According to State Police, Arunkumar Ingle, 55, was brutally killed in his 281 Chestnut Avenue residence on Jan. 20, 2008 and his body was found the following day. The Delaware County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide and the cause of death was crushing blunt force head injuries with multiple stab wounds to the head and neck.
Both Bhavnaben Ingle, arrested in February, and Parth Ingle, arrested in December 2011, remain in county prison, held without bail.
In his closing statement at the preliminary hearing, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Lawrie said the weapon used to kill Arunkumar Ingle was a wrench that had been left in the master bathroom in order to fix a non-working sink.
Several officers who responded to the crime scene testified that the master bathroom sink had been dismantled and Home Depot bags filled with parts to fix the sink were on the bathroom floor. No tools were found in the bathroom, however, a wrench was seized in the investigation.
Lawrie said the attack was personal and extreme and along with the blunt force head injuries and stab wounds, Arunkumar Ingle's testicles were extremely bruised.
He said the defendants have three motives for killing Arunkumar Ingle; $3.6 million in insurance money taken out on the entire family, multiple extramarital affairs Arunkumar Ingle had had through the years and concerns that Arunkumar Ingle would kill Parth Ingle first, in order to cash in on $1 million in insurance policies taken out on Parth in which Arunkumar was the beneficiary.
Lawrie said cell phone records also put Parth Ingle, 25, in the area of the Ingle family home in Middletown around the time the medical examiner says Arunkumar Ingle died.
"Dad is dead by 11:30 p.m.," Lawrie said in his closing statement. "And (Parth) is calling people to let them know. His cell phone hits the Granite Run Mall cell tower at 11:38 p.m."
The case's cell phone records were a point of argument between Lawrie and both sets of defense attorneys.
John Kusturiss, one of Parth Ingle's attorneys, said repeatedly that the phone records are hearsay until they are deemed accurate.
"Having (cell phone) records and them being accurate, isn't the same thing," Kusturiss said.
He said the prosecution's time frame of the homicide is "solely" based on the phone records and how can they tell that they are accurate records.
Lawrie said the phone records were obtained through a search warrant from AT&T and there is no reason to believe they are inaccurate.
Strohl ruled the phone records were permitted into preliminary hearing testimony.
Scott Galloway, Bhavnaben Ingle's attorney, said in his closing statement that even if all of the documents presented in the preliminary hearing and hearsay arguments were true, the Commonwealth still failed in its burden to prove that his client killed her husband.
Galloway said even if Bhavnaben Ingle knows who killed her husband that doesn't bind her to committing the crime.
"The Commonwealth has failed, and failed miserably, as to their burden here today. And I would ask that you discharge my client," Galloway said in court.
Monday's Earlier Testimony
Several Pennsylvania State Police-Media Barracks troopers and investigators testified in the preliminary hearing Monday, which had been continued from Friday.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Robert Kirby, the lead investigator in the case, testified that no blood had been found in Parth Ingle's black Nissan Maxima on the floormats, on the driver's seat, or on Parth's clothing or shoes which were taken from his home.
Kusturiss asked Kirby if any of Arunkumar Ingle's blood was found anywhere at Parth Ingle's Pottstown home.
"I can't prove that the blood was there or wasn't there," Kirby replied.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Michael Suter, who photographed and collected evidence from the crime scene and Parth Ingle's Pottstown home, testified that a note was found in Parth Ingle's master bedroom.
Handwriting analysis later determined Parth Ingle wrote the note and his fingerprints were also determined later to be on the paper, officers testified.
Suter read a copy of the note in court which had, "statute," "life insurance," "What would happen to you guys," and "Can I be arrested (in) another country" written on it.
Kusturiss later asked Kirby when, in relation to Parth Ingle being interviewed by police days following his father's death, was the note found at his home.
Kirby testified that the note was found on Jan. 23 after police had already accused Parth Ingle of killing his father during interviews and questioning.
According to the medical examiner's report, Arunkumar Ingle died within one to three hours of eating his last meal, Kirby testified.
Kirby testified that he believes Arunkumar Ingle ate that last meal between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 20, 2008, based on cell phone records and the testimony of Raj Desai, Arunkumar's friend.
Raj Desai, of Chester Heights, had testified on Friday that Arunkumar had asked him and his wife to come to dinner around 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 20 during a phone conversation and he could hear Bhavnaben Ingle in the background. Desai had declined the invitation.
Lawrie said Bhavnaben and Arunkumar Ingle ate dinner between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 20 and Arunkumar Ingle was killed between 9:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 21.
Lawrie said according to phone records, Parth Ingle's cell phone pinged off the Granite Run Mall cell tower at 11:38 p.m. as he was driving home to Pottstown. He did not pick up his mother at 8:30 or 9:30 p.m. which is what both Bhavnaben and Parth had told police, Lawrie said.
"All the information of him being at the house around 8:30 or 9:30 p.m. is all a lie," Lawrie said in his closing statement. "They've lied repeatedly. He arrived around 10:30 or 10:45 p.m. and dad was dead by 11:30 p.m. because the cell phone tower shows (Parth) was on his way back and calling to let people know that dad was dead."