Behind a locked bathroom door, a 15-year-old gave birth to a baby in November in her family's southwest Bakersfield home. Moments later, the door was unlocked and opened by her 23-year-old male cousin who took the crying newborn from her.

The infant was handed to the teenager's mother, who drowned the baby and wrapped it in a garbage bag. A hole was dug in a flower bed, the child's body inside and covered with salt and then dirt.

All in an attempt to shield the family from shame.

That was the scenario laid out in court documents filed Thursday after police dug up the baby's body earlier this week. The teen's mother, Beant Kaur Dhillon, 43, told police she drowned the baby to prevent family shame, the documents said.

Dhillon pleaded not guilty in court Thursday to charges of murder, assault on a child under 8 resulting in death and willful cruelty to a child. She is listed as a licensed vocational nurse on the state Department of Consumer Affairs website.

Police also arrested Dhillon's husband, Jagsir Singh, 47, who court documents say was summoned back to the home by his wife after the baby's birth. Singh, charged with being an accessory and willful cruelty to a child, posted bail and is scheduled for arraignment March 13. Singh made no attempt to inform police of the death and allowed the child to be buried in the yard, according to the documents. And neither he nor Dhillon sought medical attention for their daughter. 

Police are looking for the cousin, Bakhshinderpal Singh Mann, for his role in burying the baby and the cover-up.

The infant's slaying occurred Nov. 12 and came to light Tuesday, the same day the daughter, now 16, reported the incident to a third party who then contacted authorities, according to police. 

A wake-up call

The incident has rattled neighbors and rocked the local Sikh community.

“This is a wake-up call to the community,” said Mona Gill, co-founder of the Bakersfield Sikh Women’s Association. “This is not something we can overlook. We have to make sure we address this.”

Gill said juvenile pregnancy is generally considered taboo in Indian culture, which she described as more conservative than American. She said it is not often talked about and is usually kept private.

“The family is a central pillar in the Punjabi community. A traditional family unit is expected. That probably puts a lot of pressure on a young woman. Teen pregnancy isn’t something we see commonly.”

Gill said that needs to change. The community needs to work on being more open and supportive in light of the incident, she said. Her group's Facebook page posted a message Thursday offering help to anyone in need and posted resources for youth in crisis and the county's mental health hotline.

“This is an example of an extreme case that highlights how we need to shift to a more active dialogue,” she said. “We need to get with the times. We’re can’t pretend that certain things don’t exist or happen. The world is changing, the culture is changing. We have to keep up with the pace.”

A neighborhood disrupted

The home where the incident occurred is located on Shining Crag Avenue, in a newer development of large homes ranging in price from $360,000 to more than $400,000, west of Stine Road and south of Panama Lane.

Resident Gary Singh said the neighborhood is predominantly Sikh but has residents of different backgrounds and cultures who live in harmony. Most days residents can be seen walking on the sidewalks and talking with neighbors.

But on Tuesday, that calm was abruptly disrupted when five or six police cruisers were seen parked outside a home. Then a Crime Scene Unit van arrived and next door neighbors could see police digging in the backyard. And later, a man and woman were taken away in handcuffs. 

Californian reporters Joseph Luiz and John Cox contributed to this report.

(21) comments

Brazengunrunner91

Stephen Of course that's what I expected from an OLD RACIST like yourself. The world you once LIVED in DOES NOT EXIST anymore. Deal with it dude!!!

Cookcook

Well seeing how a psychologists was dragging a dog and getting away with it. These people will most likely have an oportunity for bail and then flee

Sr Tito


Terrible family tragedy - infanticide.
Will the Bakersfield or Sikh community step up and properly bury the little baby on behalf of the dhillon family? Before doing so, I believe the little one should be properly named (does anyone know the gender?). My condolences.

Gagie

Its very unfortunate and wrong.But don’t make monsters out of them. Because of strict culturai upbringing, they didn’t know any better. But that still doesn’t excuse them from what they did

JimmyDude

A woman of ANY upbringing, especially one that raised a child of her own, "knows better". She is a monster. Anyone that helped her kill that baby is a monster.

Nevermind

Don't make monsters out of a baby killer? If killing babies doesn't qualify you to be a monster, what does????

33Charlemagne

The irony here is that it is far more shameful to kill an innocent baby than for a teenage girl to get carried away with her boyfriend. Now they are still embarrassed about the girls behavior but also have the much greater shame of being loathsome murderers!

Stephen

When people immigrate to the US, during their orientation, there is one thing needs to be made clear. Where they came from things may have been done one way. Here we do them differently than they may be used to. However If their way was so great, then they would never have felt the need to immigrate in the first place.

Now they are here they need to understand that some things that were OK there aren't acceptable here. Among them are historic extreme religious practices that involve killing, particularly and including so-called “honor killings,” or trying to make a baby disappear because of some quaint notion of “honor.” Also the torture of animals is likewise unacceptable.

Like I said, This is here, not there. The word must be communicated that if they are so firm in their beliefs that they can’t accept the facts of north American social and moral norms and our rule of law, then they can go back to where ever they came from.

As far as people being ignorant of the opportunity for safe surrender for a baby a family can’t keep, ignorance is voluntary. You choose to avail yourself of public information including news sources or you choose to not avail yourself of that information. It’s a choice and they chose unwisely so they can suffer the consequence of law and justice. In this case I have no sympathy for grandma and the beliefs she held and the facts she did not know that made her think it was appropriate to kill a newborn baby.


(sorry but that act was so offensive that I just felt like urge to do a rant)

Harmin Sunner

This has nothing to do with immigrants, US born citizens kill new borns also, honor killings are not part of any Indian religion, they are driven by societal issues.

Nevermind

Less in India than Pakistan, but Honor Killings account for about 100 deaths a year in India. Infanticide occurs everywhere, but in some cultural societies it's acceptable. When men come here from those societies, they don't have the control over women they have in their Homeland. There is NEVER a cultural excuse for killing babies. Ever.

illys

Excuse you. The reasons why people immigrate are complex, and a part of the reason why people immigrate to the U.S. on a global level is due to COLONIALISM & POSTCOLONIAL legacies that have created many social issues in those countries.

Your way is not better sweetie, come down from your high horse. Twisted people are everywhere, and there are plenty of twisted people here. How tragic that instead of coming with compassion, you choose to flex your "moral superiority" which doesn't even exist on an ENTIRE community.

Not all Punjabis are the same. That is a racist way of viewing the world. You need to check your racism and ignorance. Also saying that it's okay "there" -- you must really be primitive because MURDER ISN'T OKAY ANYWHERE.

Copper

Sad that this young girl could not go to her mother prior to getting pregnant to be put on birth control. This is why reproductive education and access to birth control should be readily dispensed in high schools. How can that woman kill her own grandchild? I believe murder is more shameful than bringing a new life into this world. Even they did not want the child they could have given it to a family to adopt. I think that every fire station and hospital is a safe newborn drop off no questions asked . Educate. Educate. Educate. Target immigrant communities and put posters up in schools explaining all the options for an unplanned pregnancy.

Sheebe

This is not right. Plead not guilty? Is a lot out there that want children. Would love that baby and provide for the baby. This is sick and I hope they pay for what they did. Isn't a cultural thing. This is America. They did this so they wouldn't be shamed. America doesn't think that way. This breaks my heart that people can do something so disgusting.

Cookcook

It dont matter where they are from or what culture .....they knew it was wrong but they believe their image was more important than a life ....wow

Django

Horrific and shameful is alexkelley’s call to mandate legal immigrants to assimilate. Granted, the family is breaking laws, but we cannot force others to assimilate. Imagine forcing Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and others to switch to Christianity.

alexkelley

ANOTHER instances of consequences that befall our society, when we do not mandate people who come from other cultures, to assimilate to our laws, traditions and societal expectations. Instead, they inflict their twisted, ignorant, suppressed and oppressed beliefs & mentalities on us.

mkpath

@alexkelley is mass shooting an oppressed belief in your culture?

Vavoom

mandate?, can we mandate that you disappear? mandate assimilation to what...white male culture, evangelical judgemental culture?, hispanic culture?, model minority asian culture?.

Harmin Sunner

"Honor killings" are not part of anyone's 'beliefs', they are a sad result of societal issues ALL over the world including America, not just 'other cultures', your comment makes it sound as if there is one perfect American culture, there are many cultures in America, which one is it that you want 'other cultures' to assimilate to? This lady is twisted no doubt but she isn't inflicting anything on you that your own culture isn't already. This country isn't full of saints, it has millions of twisted people just like Beant Dhillon, the ignorance is with you buddy.

illys

How ironic, in defense of this poor, innocent's child, you choose to respond with racism and xenophobia. It's funny to see people try to preach about moral superiority while ignorantly labeling an entire group of people. It was really moral when your people enslaved African Americans, colonized the entire world, & committed countless genocides against Native Americans, right? Check your filthy mind.

BlackSheep

Horrifically SHAMEFUL. I hope the children are placed in a good home and these sickos have zero access to them.

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