By David Brand
A Queens jury deliberated for less than an hour on Friday before convicting a 55-year-old woman of second-degree murder after they determined she strangled her stepdaughter to death inside the Richmond Hill apartment they shared with another family.
Shamdai Arjun killed 9-year-old Ashdeep Kaur and left her inside the apartment’s bathtub in August 2016. Arjun fled the house with her two young grandchildren and tried to hole up in her ex-husband’s home, prosecutor said in her opening statement last month.
Tirino portrayed Ashdeep, who had moved to Queens from India three months before her death, as the Cinderella of the family. Ashdeep’s mother wanted her to have a better life with her father in Queens, Tirino told the jury.
“But instead of a better life, she suffered a violent death at the hands of this defendant,” Tirino said. “Instead of taking care of her, she killed her in a most brutal fashion.”
A woman who shared the Richmond Hill apartment with Arjun and her family noticed that the light was on in the hallway bathroom, though no one seemed to be inside. The woman grew more suspicious when she encountered Arjun leaving the home with two of her children and asked where Ashdeep was. Arjun told the woman that Arjun was washing her hair, according to court testimony.
The woman called Ashdeep’s father who became concerned and told the woman to open the door. The woman and a neighbor found Ashdeep’s stiff body inside the bathtub.
Arjun faces 25 years to life in prison. Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder set sentencing for June 3.
“This is a horrifying case of a defenseless nine-year-old child, who was to be cared for by her stepmother but was instead strangled to death by her,” said Queens Acting District Attorney John Ryan. “Her actions are truly incomprehensible and deserve the maximum punishment allowed under the law.”