NEW YORK: An Indian-origin woman in the US has been sentenced to 22 years to life in prison for strangling her nine-year-old stepdaughter to death in a bathtub, a crime described as "unimaginable" by the court.
Shamdai Arjun, 55, of Queens, New York was convicted last month of second-degree murder by a jury that deliberated for less than one hour before Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder.
She was sentenced Monday to an indeterminate term of 22 years to life in prison. Arjun was convicted for the August 2016 strangulation death of her stepdaughter Ashdeep Kaur, who was left in her care.
"The defendant, in this case, goes beyond the tales of evil stepmothers. This defendant committed the unimaginable - she wrapped her hands around her stepdaughter's little neck and squeezed the life out of her," Acting Queens District Attorney John Ryan said in a harsh statement after the verdict.
"The victim was an innocent child and just nine years old. The Court has imposed a sentence that will likely guarantee this woman never sees freedom again. The sentence of the Court is more than warranted in this tragic case," Ryan said.
According to trial testimony, on the evening of August 19, 2016, Arjun was observed by an eyewitness leaving her apartment in Queens along with her ex-husband Raymond Narayan, and her two grandchildren aged 3 and 5.
When asked about the nine-year-old victim's whereabouts, Arjun informed the eyewitness that the child was in the bathroom and was waiting for her father to pick her up.
The eyewitness, who observed that the bathroom light had been on for several hours, called the victim's father Sukhjinder Singh and was instructed to break through the bathroom door.
She found Kaur's lifeless naked body in the bathtub. There were several bruises on her body.
A report filed by the Medical Examiner's Office determined that the cause of death was manual strangulation. In 2016, Queens Assistant District Attorney Michael Curtis had said that Arjun repeatedly and on numerous occasions threatened to kill the young girl.
Kaur's relatives had also said that the young girl had been previously abused by Arjun, who had been entrusted with her care while Singh worked in a local restaurant.
Kaur had arrived in the US from India just three months before she was killed in August 2016 and was living with her father and Arjun in an apartment in Queens that was shared with another couple.
The housemate had seen Kaur go in the bathroom with Arjun, who later came out alone and left the building.
She allegedly said that Kaur was taking a bath. New York Police Depratment detectives had then gone to Narayan's residence and found him, Arjun and the two grandchildren inside the apartment.