Six members of NRI family killed, father rushes to US [Fourth Lead]

March 31st, 2009 - 11:06 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington/Chennai, March 31 (IANS) An apparent case of murder-suicide has left six Indians dead and one critically injured in Santa Clara, California, with US police believing that financial distress may not have been the motive behind the crime. A family elder from south India late Tuesday flew to the US to attend to the injured and bring home the dead.

S. Raghavan, the 79-year-old shell-shocked father of alleged family killer R. Devarajan, 40, flew to the US to attend to his unconscious daughter-in-law Aabha, now in a Santa Clara hospital and bring home the dead, family sources said in Chennai.

“We have no idea as to why this ghastly incident took place. Everything was hunky dory. Ashokan had relocated to the US a little over a month ago on deputation from the Bangalore office of Hewlett Packard while his brother-in-law Devarajan had taken care of the logistics,” Y. Kannan, a relative, told IANS from Ayyankollai.

“The entire family gathered for dinner at the house-warming party in the newly acquired residence of Devarajan in Santa Clara and something went horribly wrong. The truth will be known only when Devarajan’s wife Aabha regains consciousness. Raghavan has sent requests to the Indian government to help bring the bodies home for the funerals quickly,” Kannan added.

Grieving relatives and friends gathered at the family’s palatial residence in Ayyankollai in Nilgiris district, 550 km southwest of Tamil Nadu capital Chennai.

“It was such a nice, quiet, prosperous family known for its philanthropy and helping nature. While we are attempting to console Appu Master, whose entire family save daughter-in-law Aabha has been wiped out, the bigger worry is whether the man at his age will be able to withstand this shock,” N.K. Raj, a relative, told IANS.

In the US, the police were not releasing the names of the victims until confirming that the family was notified and declined to discuss details of a possible motive.

“On the surface, financial stress does not appear to be a motive,” Lt. Phil Cooke of Santa Clara police was cited as saying by KTVU News.

The Santa Clara police are working with the Indian consulate in San Francisco, which is providing assistance to investigators and helping to confirm identities of all the victims.

Media reports claimed that the victims were natives of Wayanad district in Kerala and identified them as Ayyankoli native Devarajan and his family members Suchitra, Ashokan, Akhil, Neha and Ahaana.

Devarajan was an engineer at Yahoo! and had worked with Microsoft before that, reports said.

A grief-stricken Appu Master, 80, told IANS earlier over phone that the killer was his son-in-law Devarajan and only one of the six people he shot survived - Appu Master’s daughter Aabha.

“My daughter and son-in-law had moved to the US some 15 years ago. The son and daughter-in-law with their child just did and were very close to each other. Only Aabha has survived,” Master said.

Devarajan and Ashokan were IT professionals.

Officers responded to the shooting at a town home at 4,350 Headen Way at about 8.30 p.m. Sunday and found seven people had been shot.

The police said Monday night it appears a 42-year-old man shot and critically injured his 34-year-old wife, and killed their four-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.

The suspect also allegedly killed three of his wife’s relatives, a 35-year-old man, his 25-year-old wife and their 11-month-old daughter, Cooke said.

The suspect, who allegedly died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, had recently moved into the Headen Way home with his wife and their two children, Cooke said.

Evidence technicians were still working inside the house on Headen Way Monday, searching for evidence and answers. The home is part of the Rivermark development, and the area remained cordoned off for much of the day.

Located near the Sun Microsystems campus and the former Agnews mental hospital, Rivermark is home to young families and professionals, many of whom are immigrants working in the tech industry.

The suspect’s two children attended a private school in Sunnyvale, school officials confirmed Monday. The four-year-old girl was enrolled in preschool at the Challenger School in Sunnyvale, Challenger CEO Barbara Baker said. Baker said the boy was in the fifth grade.

As the sun set Monday, bouquets of daffodils and carnations along with stuffed animals were placed under the yellow crime scene tape. Neighbours gathered on their stoops still wondering what had happened to their once-tranquil community, San Jose Mercury News said.

“It’s such a quiet neighbourhood. I don’t even hear anybody speaking in a loud voice,” said Amit Sinha, a software engineer. “And then there are 20 police with semi-automatic guns.”

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