El Sobrante Sikh temple killer denied early release; No parole eligibility for 10 years

SACRAMENTO — The state parole board has denied the early release of Joga Singh Sandher in the 2000 killing of Ajmer Singh Malhi inside a Sikh temple in El Sobrante.

At a hearing Thursday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Parole Board found Sandher posed an unreasonable risk to public safety and was not suitable for parole. The decision came after the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office requested the board deny him parole.

It was the second finding in recent months that Sandher was found to be a risk to the public should he be released early. In August, a judge denied a request by CDCR to resentence Sandher – who received a 50 years-to-life sentence in 2001 – to a lower term. 

At Thursday’s Parole Suitability Hearing, a panel found if Sandher were to be released, the danger he posed to the community was far higher than the information Sandher presented that he was not a risk, according to the district attorney’s office.   

The 58-year-old Sandher won’t be eligible for parole for another ten years. 

Gurdwara Sahib Sikh center in El Sobrante

Coro, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sandher was convicted of murdering Malhi, a Sikh leader, inside the El Sobrante Gurdwara Sahib, the Sikh Center of the San Francisco Bay Area, with an M-16 rifle during Sunday services. Sandher told police he was upset that Malhi had prevented him from addressing the congregation.

Malhi was married, the father of three children, a leader in his teacher’s union, and a math teacher at Skyline High School in Oakland, the DA’s office said in a press statement. 

“Even in a world where mass shootings have become all too commonplace, Sandher’s actions in January 2000 still shock the conscience,” said Deputy District Attorney Caleb Webster in a prepared statement. “His spiteful, brazen killing did irreparable harm not only to those who knew and loved Mr. Malhi, but to the entire Sikh community.” 

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