A Tennessee couple accused of driving to Montgomery County to gun down their victim on a street in Germantown were found with two pistols, hair dye, a wig and more than $3,600 in cash — indications that they would flee if given a chance, prosecutors contended in court Thursday.
“The allegations are severe, the evidence is strong and the flight risk is huge,” Assistant State’s Attorney Marybeth Ayres said, arguing that Baldeo Taneja should remain locked up on a no-bond status.
The 62-year-old statistician with a PhD is charged with the Oct. 12 killing of his ex-wife, Preeta Paul Gabba, 49. Also charged is Taneja’s current wife, Raminder Kaur, 63. Court records made public Thursday indicate detectives believe that Kaur fired the fatal shot.
At issue Thursday were bond review hearings for the couple and whether they should be allowed to leave the county jail before their trials.
District Judge John C. Moffett, citing the allegations against Taneja and the possible flight risk, ordered him to remain held on no-bond status. The judge delayed reviewing Kaur’s bond because a Hindi interpreter was not available.
Thursday’s hearing shed more details on a case that involves a messy divorce, cellphone records and recently purchased hollow-point bullets.
Taneja and Gabba married in 2002 in India. They came to the United States and in 2010 separated, according to court papers in their divorce case. Taneja and Gabba each claimed that the other was abusive.
Taneja said that Gabba was trying to control him and his business associates, while Gabba said that Taneja physically abused her, according to the records. Elements of the dispute included control over an Amway business in India.
Taneja then married Kaur, and they recently moved to Nashville.
On Sept. 28, according to Montgomery police, the couple walked into Specialty Arms, a shop in Nashville, and bought a Ruger LCR revolver, a Ruger GP100 revolver and rounds of .38-caliber hollow-point bullets, which are designed to expand after hitting their target.
In a telephone interview Thursday, John Arnold, the owner of Specialty Arms, recalled speaking to the couple. All conversation centered on personal protection. “They made a purchase and did a background check and cleared the background check,” Arnold said. “Basically, it was a cut-and-dry, everyday transaction.”
On Oct. 11, according to Taneja’s cellphone records, he was on the move, driving through Virginia and into Montgomery.
Detectives also alleged that Taneja checked into the Red Roof Inn in Rockville that night. A clerk there told detectives that he did so with an Indian American female.
The next morning, Gabba was hit by at least one bullet while crossing a street outside her apartment.
A witness allegedly told others at the scene that Gabba had been shot by a woman, according to police.
After using cellphone records, looking at gun-purchase history and speaking with at least one family member, detectives quickly closed in on Taneja and Kaur.
When Taneja and Kaur were arrested in Nashville, officers found two handguns, the wig, the hair dye and the cash, according to Ayres. Police said a bullet found at the scene matched the firing characteristics of a Ruger LCR, one of the models the couple had bought at the gun shop.
In court, Taneja’s attorney, Rene Sandler, painted a picture of a man who had neither been in trouble nor connected to violence. He had held jobs at the Hospital Corporation of America and, before that, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Sandler said.
She also questioned parts of the case against Taneja, among them the notion that he was upset over the divorce. In an interview after the hearing, Sandler noted that her client had paid more than 21 / 2 years’ worth of monthly $2,284 alimony payments — and had to do that only for three years.
“He was within three months of completing them,” Sandler said.