Millionaire turned pauper Indian American kills five of family, self (Third Lead)

October 7th, 2008 - 9:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Los Angeles, Oct 7 (IANS) In what appears to be one of the first tragedies linked to the US economic meltdown, an Indian American, reduced from a millionaire to a pauper, shot dead his wife, three sons and mother-in-law before killing himself in an upscale neighbourhood in Los Angeles.The body of Karthik Rajaram, 45, who had earlier worked as financial advisor with PriceWaterCooperhouse, was found in his house Monday with a handgun he had used to shoot himself dead. Next to him lay his two youngest sons Arjuna, 7, and Ganesha, 12.

Police also found in different rooms of the house Karthik’s wife Subasri 39, his mother-in-law Indra Ramaseshan, 69, and his eldest son Krishna Rajaram, 19, a Fulbright Scholar and honour student at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) - all shot to death.

Authorities also found two suicide notes, one for the police and one for family and friends, and a will left behind by Rajaram. In the notes, he spoke of his financial difficulties and took responsibility for killing his family members, police said.

Ed Winter, assistant chief from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, identified the suspect as Rajaram.

The minor massacre was discovered Monday morning, after a neighbour called police to report that as part of a carpool, Rajaram’s wife had failed to pick her up to take her to her job at a pharmacy, Los Angeles Deputy Chief of Police Michel Moore said.

The killings are thought to have occurred some time after Saturday evening, when Rajaram was last reported seen, Moore said.

The tragedy in a seemingly well-to-do family living in a gated community in San Fernando Valley, 32 km northwest of Los Angeles, has inevitably been linked to the recent financial turmoil in the country.

“This is a perfect American family behind me that has absolutely been destroyed,” Moore told reporters. “It is critical to step up and recognize we are in some pretty troubled times.”

The victim family appears to have been well-off at one time. According to the Los Angeles Times, they sold their earlier home in 2006 for $750,000, making a sizable profit. The family did not own the current home, which was rented.

Investigators also determined that Rajaram, an MBA in finance, was at least the part-owner of a financial holding company, SKGL LLC, which was incorporated in Nevada, ostensibly to hold his family assets.

Yet, Rajaram had become despondent over his financial situation, Moore said. In one of his letters, he talked of two options: taking his own life or taking his own life and that of his family. “He talked himself into the second strategy,” Moore said.

According to the police, there was no evidence that Rajaram had sought help from mental health professionals. However, the context of the letters and the fact that Rajaram had purchased the handgun as recently as Sep 16 indicated that his actions were “premeditated”, they said.

There is more evidence that the crime was premeditated.

One of the neighbours reported that Rajaram had spoken to her twice in the last two weeks asking whether she would be home this past weekend. He urged her to keep her side windows shut because he had heard of burglaries in the area.

He seemed nervous - shaking, pacing and taking notes on a notepad as he spoke to her, she told the LA Times. She surmised after the bloodbath that he was trying to have her close her windows so that she wouldn’t hear the gunshots.

Other neighbours said the Rajarams were a quiet, decent family who pretty much kept to themselves and did not socialise much.

Krishna appeared to be visiting home and the parents seemed to have given up their master bedroom for him, police said.

The incident not only shocked the neighbourhood, but also the Indian community in the US with the American media reporting it on a day the markets went further down.

Indians are seen as the most successful ethnic community in the country with the highest per capita income among all segments of the population, including whites.

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