This story was updated at 4:10 p.m. on Nov. 1, 2013.
A husband and wife accused of traveling from Tennessee to kill a Germantown woman had bail denied this week in Montgomery County District Court.
Prosecutors argued in court that the two should be denied bail because they were a flight risk.
According to documents made public Thursday, when Baldeo K. Taneja and Raminder Kaur were arrested Oct. 13 in Tennessee, the pair had a wig and hair dye with them, as well as a gun matching the one used in the shooting, and $3,600 in cash.
Taneja, 62, and Kaur, 63, are accused of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. If convicted, they could spend the rest of their lives in prison. A judge denied bail for Taneja on Thursday and for Kaur on Friday.
According to police, Taneja and Kaur traveled to Germantown to kill Preeta P. Gabba, Taneja’s 49-year-old ex-wife. Gabba was shot on Crystal Rock Drive and died.
Taneja and Gabba divorced in 2011, but continued having court hearings over alimony payments.
According to Taneja’s charging documents, detectives learned from Gabba’s son that Taneja had been having issues making his alimony payments and had a court hearing scheduled for Oct. 11. Police learned that Taneja did not show up for that hearing, but according to his attorney, Rene Sandler, he had not been required to be there.
“The inference that the state and police want the public to believe here is that somehow Mr. Taneja intentionally failed to appear for a court appearance. That is simply untrue,” she said, at his bail review Thursday.
“His appearance for that proceeding was waived, meaning he was permitted not to attend, so any other suggestion is simply not true,” she said.
Sandler also refuted police records which said his cellphone records tied him to the crime.
“There is no evidence to suggest by cellphone records - at all - Mr. Taneja was at, near, or around the vicinity of this murder,” she said.
In court, she portrayed Taneja as a man who had never had trouble with the law, who had a PHD and worked as a statistician for the FDA. In Nashville, Tenn. he had been working for the Hospital Corporation of America as a statistician.
Assistant State’s Attorney Marybeth Ayres described another man in court when she argued against granting Taneja bail.
According to Ayres, Taneja and Gabba had a “turbulent” marriage and divorce, which she said was “tumultuous up to the end.”
Gabba had sought a protective order in 2010, alleging that Taneja had threatened to kill her, Ayres said. And when investigators searched Taneja’s home, they found a laptop, loaded with an email from 2009 referencing the issues in their divorce, she said.
“Clearly that stayed with him,” she said.
“The evidence against him is very strong,” Ayres said.
“His flight risk is huge,” she said, reminding Montgomery District Judge John C. Moffett of the wig, hair dye, and cash found in Taneja’s car when he was arrested.
Taneja’s charging documents show that detectives tracked his phone from Tennessee to the Washington, D.C., area before the phone was turned off, and that they discovered he and Kaur had stayed at the Red Roof Inn on Shady Grove Road in Rockville.
In an interview Thursday, Taneja’s attorney said that he had paid over $41,000 in alimony payments and was just months away from completing his alimony payments.
Taneja’s arresting documents also show that in September, Taneja bought a Ruger LCR (a small-caliber revolver) and a GP-100 (a double-action revolver) along with some ammunition. Police compared, and matched, a bullet test fired from that gun with a bullet the recovered from Gabba’s clothing, according to the documents. The police documents also show that police believe Kaur, 63, was the one who actually pulled the trigger in the shooting. Witnesses told police they saw a woman matching Kaur’s description walking next to Gabba before she was shot, according to Taneja’s arrest documents.
At Kaur’s bail review on Friday, Assistant State’s Attorney Jessica Hall, like Ayres, argued against bail, citing “overwhelming” evidence.
“There is a significant concern she may flee upon release,” she said, noting business and family ties that Kaur has in India.
Alan Drew, Kaur’s defense attorney, said she had not bought the weapon used in Gabba’s murder, and said that Kaur had no history of violence.
And he told Judge William G. Simmons that there was no evidence tying her to the scene of the crime. Witnesses had told police they saw a short, dark-skinned woman walking next to Gabba before she died, he said.
“That description could fit a multitude of people,” he said.