Brampton woman sentenced to 12 years for sister-in-law’s slaying

3Mandeep Punia was found guilty last spring in the stabbing death of her sister-in-law, who was pregnant.
A 39-year-old Brampton woman who stabbed her pregnant sister-in-law in the neck as the victim held her 2-year-old daughter, and then watched the woman bleed to death, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.
The case has captured the attention of many in Brampton’s huge Punjabi-Canadian community as details have been revealed of how Mandeep Punia killed Poonam Litt, how family members dumped her body and then concealed their crimes for three years.
The courtroom erupted after the sentence for Punia’s manslaughter conviction in Litt’s 2009 death.
“Go to hell,” a woman screamed at Punia as she exited the courtroom. She was later identified to the Star as one of Litt’s sisters.
In the sisters’ victim-impact statement, included in Ontario Superior Court Justice Steve Coroza’s sentencing decision, they spoke of the family’s pain over their loss.
“Those three years, we were not sure to mourn for her or to wait for her to come home . . . mom would barely speak . . . her eyesight worsened and her health did as well due to stress, depression and the heartache she was feeling from the emptiness of losing her daughter.”
Punia also lashed out in court, yelling at Coroza after hearing her sentence: “If anything happens to my children, who will be responsible?”
That’s when a corner of the courtroom erupted. “You murdered two people,” another woman yelled at Punia following her outburst at the judge. Punia, as she left the courtroom, yelled behind her, “Judge didn’t know everything.”
The impact of Litt’s death and three-year disappearance led to her husband Manjinder Litt’s heroin addiction, according to the judge’s ruling. Manjinder was in India at a family wedding when his wife was killed by his sister.
For years, his own family, including his sister, as well as his father, Kulwant Litt, who helped dispose of the body, maintained they did not know what happened to Litt. They told Manjinder Litt and police they never saw her after she left for workthe morning after she was stabbed.
When Poonam Litt’s remains were found in a Caledon field three years later, the story unravelled.
Coroza pointed out that Punia’s husband, Skinder Punia, was found guilty of being an accessory to manslaughter for helping dispose of Litt’s body. He has been sentenced to seven years in prison, less credit for time already served awaiting trial.
The Crown had sought a sentence of 12 to 14 years, after Mandeep Punia was found guilty of manslaughter in April. Coroza said the 2009 stabbing was a “one off” situation and that he did not believe there was an “intention” to kill, but he did not agree with a sentence of eight years being sought by Punia’s lawyer Robert Richardson, as the action was “deliberate,” not an accident.
Coroza noted that Punia concealed her crime for three years, while her sister-in-law’s body, which was dumped then partially eaten by animals, eventually was reduced to a few barely identifiable bones.
“All that remained of Poonam was her skull, right tibia, left clavicle, left neck vertebrae, lower jaw and a tooth,” Coroza said.
He painted a troubling picture of the family patriarch, Kulwant Litt, who repeatedly lied to police and the court, trying to conceal the level of discord in his family that led to his daughter-in-law’s death, then lying about what happened after.
“Kulwant’s evidence must be approached with a healthy dose of skepticism and caution,” Coroza wrote in his sentencing decision.
Kulwant left for India in 2012, where he told a relative what really happened; that relative secretly recorded the story and gave it to Manjinder Litt. He went to Peel police, who asked the husband of the slain woman to convince his father to return to Canada.
Upon his return, Kulwant Litt told his son about the bloody night in 2009, when his wife had been left to die on the floor of the family kitchen. He then took his son to the spot where his wife’s body was dumped.
Kulwant Litt, Mandeep Punia and Skinder Punia were interviewed by police and arrested shortly after. A perjury charge against Kulwant was recently dropped and earlier this week he pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact. His sentencing hearing begins Friday.
Punia will be given credit for her pre-trial custody at a rate of 1.5 days for every day spent in custody prior to the trial. That means she will serve another five years and six months.
As the sentence was read Thursday, Punia, sitting on a glassed-in prisoner’s bench, kept her eyes on the judge and repeatedly wiped tears from her face.
“Mandeep was sane and sober while she stabbed Poonam,” Coroza said, adding that Litt was pregnant when she was killed and had been holding her 2-year-old daughter in her arms at the moment a box-cutter blade was thrust into her neck.
The victim likely bled to death on the kitchen floor of the Brampton house where the extended family lived, a common arrangement in traditional Punjabi families.
Explaining why he did not render a harsher sentence, Justice Coroza said he did not believe Punia had the “intention” of killing Litt when a fight broke out between the two.
The fight that led to her stabbing at the hands of her sister-in-law was over an alleged relationship Punia had in India before she was married.
Before Punia’s sentence was read, she put on headphones provided so the judge’s words could be interpreted for her into Punjabi.
The courtroom was almost half full. When Coroza began to read descriptions of Poonam Litt and what her family had endured, many in the room began to cry.
He gave more details of how her body had been ravaged, after Punia’s husband and father returned to the wooded property in Caledon where they had disposed of Litt’s body. They removed her clothing and tried to burn her remains, but had trouble because of the cold weather.
Coroza also mentioned the struggles Manjinder Litt has faced, dealing with the loss of his wife, his subsequent heroin dependence and his family’s betrayal. He has since moved far away, to Manitoba with his daughter, who turns 10 this year.

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