People often ask me why it is that I am so interested in such sad stories. How I’m not depressed after watching hundreds of hours of ID Discovery channel and horror films, or listening to True Crime podcasts when I wake up every morning. I’ve often wondered myself why I just don’t find certain things disturbing, or how I can tell a story that I think is fascinating while watching the person I’m telling it to crawl in their skin. How can I stomach my dinner while watching Autopsy footage, and fall asleep while scrolling through Murderpedia. Horror movies never bothered me, I was never scared of the dark, I never worried about monsters or ghosts, and I’ve got the pain tolerance of an Ox. The only things that have ever scared me, are the things that are real. I can close my eyes and wish the ghosts and monsters and pain away, but no wishing in the world will stop a human from hurting you if they really want to. It can be your lover, your family member, your friend, a daily acquaintance. If you have ever experienced being physically abused or assaulted, it is a feeling you never want to experience again, and it is the truest fear you will ever know. For me personally, I turned that fear into fascination – to learn how to understand why nothing else in the world scares me as much as the human mind. I researched my fear so thoroughly that I became desensitized to terror. I wanted to learn everything I could about why our minds work so differently, and how someone’s mind could truly believe that such heinous acts are normal. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my favorite murder podcast Sword and Scale – it is that “The worst monsters are real.” And that, to me, is fascinating.
On this weeks edition of Murder Monday – I’m going to tell you the story of the closest I’ve ever been to a murderer.
The morning of Tuesday July 19, 2016 –
I walked into work like any other day, I had been working at a barber shop in my home town in South Jersey. The shop was on a small block, with a hometown feel. Every business owner knew one another, and all of the families nearby. The local public school was in walking distance, and the kids would wave hello as they passed the store fronts. I’d stroll into work around 10:15 every day, I’d set up my station, and cross the street to the Quick Stop Deli – where I would get scratch off lotto tickets, a pack of cigarettes, and a coffee, every day. But this day was a little different.
Quick Stop used to open in the early morning hours, and I’d never seen them closed before. I grew up in town, my family lived in walking distance, and the couple that operated the business had been running on a timely schedule for nearly 20 years. I looked through our adjacent store front and noticed that the lights in the deli were off.
“There’s a lady taking photos out front, maybe they’re selling the place.” Said a coworker.
“They would never sell that place.” I replied.
I walked across the street and approached the woman with the camera, asking her why she was taking photos. She glanced up from her camera, and said “You know a lady named Seema?” …. “Yes, I do. What happened?” I replied. Next thing I knew, Bob Brooks from 6 ABC news came strolling around the corner with a camera man and asked me to answer a couple questions. “Questions about what?” I asked
“They won’t be open today, something has happened.” said Bob Brooks
“What, did Pal kill his wife or something?” I replied…
He didn’t find this funny.
He rolled the camera, and restated that Pal had murdered his wife, as if he wanted some reaction from me on camera… I scratched my head, wished their family well, and cut the interview as short as I could. (It aired that night, and my phone rang off the hook.) I returned to work, made a few phone calls, and went about my day. None of us really acted any differently. Costumers came and went asking for the scoop on the murderer across the street, and we all had the same response –
that we were not surprised.
(Photo by Matt Skoufalos)
Nitin (Pal) Singh and his wife Seema, owned and operated the Quick Stop Deli for nearly 20 years. Interestingly enough, they had taken the business over from another family with a haunting past. The couple bought the building from the Knox family. Who, as it turns out, sold the business after their son David Knox was convicted for the rape and murder of a 10 year old girl in 1993.
Pal and Seema were well known around the town, and for a small corner store they had quite the good reputation thanks to their sandwiches. Seema was known for rounding down and letting you slide with change, (ex. charging 3$ instead of 3.25) – and Pal was always helpful and kind. He kept dark chocolate Peanut Chews in stock for me and would stash them aside for me if they were running low. They had three children, and we all watched them grow. Their oldest, Richie, was known to brighten anyone’s day. Richie was 16, but had a learning disability, his siblings were 5, and 6. He would often run the counter for his parents, and sometimes he would sneak me my scratch offs and cigarettes even though he would say “I’m too young for this bad stuff” – Richie was a good kid.
In early December of 2015, the couple was robbed at gun point in their store. During dinner hour on a Monday, a man on a bike wearing a ski mask entered the store. He passed two costumers, approached the lottery counter, and showed Pal a weapon.
”He showed me what looked to me like a semi-automatic with a silencer.” “He said, ‘Get down, get everybody down.” Said Pal in an interview with Matt Skoufalos for NJ Pen shortly after the robbery.
The masked man emptied two cash registers, and got away on his bicycle.
Ever since this incident, something changed in Pal. We all saw it happening, and we all knew something was wrong.
Pal went from being helpful and kind, to paranoid and creepy. He would follow me around the store, as if I were going to steal the peanut chews he had been watching me buy for ten years. When he would give me change, he would caress my hand. My Mother actually stopped going to the store because he was so creepy towards her. He got in a verbal altercation with my boss, and then a physical altercation with our local homeless pest, Joey. Pal used to wear his hair long, and colored it black to maintain his appearance at the age of 46. He was always clean shaved, and dressed somewhat decently. But that all changed, and it changed quickly.
Something was wrong with Pal.
Just months later, in the early morning hours of Tuesday, July 19, 2016 – Nitin Pal Singh brutally murdered his wife Seema with an assortment of kitchen utensils while his three children were sleeping, at their home in Pennsville, NJ. He then called he police on himself.
5:30am – the 911 call
“Yeah, can you send help to 144 North Broadway?” – Pal to emergency responder
“My wife is not breathing.”
The responder repeatedly asks Pal if she is breathing, why she is not breathing, and he repeatedly answers their questions with “I don’t know.” And “I don’t think so.”
“Do you know how to do CPR? Do you want to do CPR?” – 911 operator
“No, can you send help please?”
The line is then disconnected from Singh’s end.
Pennsville police officers were the first to arrive on scene. They entered through the rear of the brick multi-unit building where they lived, and found Pal standing over his wife’s body, face up, covered in blood. The children were taken out through a side door, to save them the grief of seeing their Mother’s lifeless body. One of my costumers at the barber shop told me he was a responder on scene, and that he heard Pal had wedged door stoppers outside of the children’s room before the murder to prevent them from witnessing the act. He was taken into custody immediately.
An autopsy showed that Seema had been stabbed more than 30 times in the abdomen, chest, and face. All wounds were inflicted with several kitchen utensils that were taken in as evidence, that of which including numerous knives and two kitchen forks.
Nitin Singh was placed in the Salem County Correctional Facility on 1 Million full cash bail. He was initially charged with first degree murder, second degree aggravated assault, fourth degree unlawful possession of a weapon, and fourth degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
After the news of Seema’s death spread, I watched locals drop off candles, balloons, and flowers, to the dreary closed down deli. Every client that sat in my barber chair faced the window and stared, and asked me questions that I could not answer. I crossed over and left a bundle of Sunflowers by the door.
The day of her vigil we saw Richie, their oldest son, walking around the neighborhood. I waved him over, and he came and sat with me in the shop. (Again, this is a child with learning disabilities who’s Mother had just been murdered by his Father…) He called me “barber girl Tess.” Richie seemed happy, and started talking about how cool it was that so many people brought “presents” for his Mom.
I asked him if he was okay, to which he replied –
“My Mom is in heaven, she turned into an angel because she was a good lady. I’m sad for my Dad, but now no one else can get hurt. Maybe I’ll go see him someday, they let you do that ya know.”
I held in tears as I listened to him explain to me how cool it was that he gets to live with his best friend for a while. (At the time a family from their church had taken the children into their care.) When he left the shop we all agreed that we were glad none of the children were old enough to fully comprehend the horror that befell their family.
After being set free for 2 days in June 2017 when his elderly father posted $350,000 for his bail, Nitin “Pal” Singh was ordered back to jail because prosecutors felt he was a threat to himself and to others. Singh appeared in court with relatives and his defense attorney Ron Helmer, Helmer said the relatives were there to translate if needed. During the court hearing, Helmer urged Nitin not to speak, but his outbursts went on and on. The suspect continued to rant on about Obamacare, border security, terrorism, and Donald Trump’s victory. It was in this time of investigation that the court disclosed that he had spent time in a psychiatric hospital in Trenton prior to the incident, but no other details were given. Singh refused to listen to his lawyer, or to the judges advice, and went on to another outburst where he stated that in the killing of his wife he was “fighting for his country.” The court ordered that he be held until a court-approved psychological examination was completed and approved by court. Following this, he was sent back to jail and denied bail.
In his most recent hearing, Singh entered a guilty plea to one count of first degree man slaughter, and all other charges were dropped. He also continued to tell the judge that his wife had been having an affair with a close friend of his, and that she was planning to “leave and take everything.” None of this can be proved. Sing is expected to face 20 years in state prison, and will be eligible for parole in 17 years with 5 years probation when he is inevitably set free.
“I do not want to put my children through a murder trial”
Says the man who stabbed his wife 39 times, ten feet away from his children.
The point of this story (because I always have one) was intended to remind you that the worst monsters are among us. Mental illness can take over even some of the best people. It was a shame to see how many people watched this crime unfold and simply mumbled “I’m not surprised.” Well, were you surprised by any of the shootings this year done by young adults with winding psychiatric records? No. None of us were. If you or someone you know is in need of psychiatric care – please do not hesitate to offer help or alert your local authorities of alarming or threatening behavior. The human mind is the most terrifyingly complex thing, and it must be handled with care.
Also, hopefully whoever opens up this building next doesn’t turn into a murderer too – Because if they do, ya girl is going to go hard at some town meetings to get this place burned down.
3 strikes, you’re out…. Quick Stop.
See you next week.