Murder Trial of Student Nears End

Anne Benjaminson and Rob Zazueta of The Daily Californian staff contributed to this report.





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Closing arguments are scheduled to continue today in the homicide trial of a former UC Berkeley student accused of slaying his ex-girlfriend, their infant son and her unborn child.

Michael Singh is being tried in connection with the December 1996 death of Rhoshima Pippins, her 7-month-old son, Michael Glass, and her unborn fetus.

On Tuesday, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Stuart Hing delivered his closing argument to the jury, telling them that Singh told people he planned to kill Pippins or find someone who would.

The jury is slated to hear final closing arguments today and could begin deliberating as early as this afternoon.

Hing said yesterday he will seek the death penalty if Singh is found guilty. He declined to comment further because he has not yet made his final arguments.

When Singh was charged with murder as a UC Berkeley junior, friends said they were shocked at the allegations.

They said he organized several youth-oriented alcohol prevention programs and worked at a youth recreation center.

Police reports state Pippins, 22, and her son were found dead in a running car in a Hayward Safeway parking lot at 2 a.m. Pippins was at the store to buy milk for her baby.

She was shot in the back of the head and her 7-month-old son was shot twice in the head and once in the chest.

Singh was arrested that day and was charged with two counts of homicide. The charge was later increased to three felony homicide counts to include the unborn fetus. According to California law, killing a fetus beyond the embryo stage can be charged as murder.

Singh and Pippins began dating in May 1995 but broke up when Singh discovered that Pippins was pregnant.

Paternity tests showed that the infant was indeed Singh's son. The unborn fetus was also suspected to be Singh's.

Friends of Singh said at the time that he was distressed about Pippins' pregnancy and tried to pressure her to have an abortion. When she refused, he allegedly attempted to have a friend, Racheal Butler, intimidate her and even abuse her physically.

Butler, however, ended up befriending Pippins instead. Butler later told police that, when Singh found out about these developments, he told her that he would either have Pippins killed or he would kill her himself.

"Is there any idea who, um, popped her?" Singh asked police after learning of Pippin's death in 1996.

Mark Koller, the detective in charge of the case in 1996, said he saw this response as very suspicious.

"As of that point, no one had mentioned to anyone that either of the victims had been shot," Koller said in the police report.

Hayward police Lt. Rick Parker said yesterday the investigation had been extensive.

"The detectives followed up leads that led them to Singh's house," he said. "Once there, they discovered additional evidence that was then processed for blood examinations. Obviously, there's a lot of evidence."

Singh told investigators he met Pippins when he worked at the West Berkeley branch of Wells Fargo bank. He had filed for a restraining order against Pippins less than a month before her death, claiming that she was stalking him.

The restraining order was never served. At one point, he called police after she allegedly followed him home from work.

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