Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Murder-Suicide in Silicon Valley's Indian Family

Five members of a South Indian family are dead in an apparent murder-suicide in Sunnyvale, CA. The 42-year-old Yahoo engineer, Devan Kalathat, aka Raghavan Devarajan, opened fire on his wife, his two children and his wife's brother's family who were all living in the same townhouse in Sunnyvale, and then turned the gun on himself.

According to media reports, Kalathat was a naturalized U.S. citizen who moved from India to Sunnyvale 15 years ago. Kalathat's wife, Abha, is reported in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds in her upper body. Sunnyvale Police identified the dead victims as Kalathat's children: 11-year-old Akhil Dev and 4-year-old Negha Dev; Kalathat's brother-in-law Ashok Appu Poothemkandi, 35, Poothemkandi's wife, Suchitra Sivaraman, 25; and the Poothemkandis' infant daughter, Ahana Ashok.

In a story posted Tuesday, the Times of India had an interview with Kalathat's father-in-law, Appu Master, an 80-year-old retired schoolteacher, in Tamil Nadu. Master told the news organization that the shooter had a "quarrel" with Master's son, Poothemkandi.

Ashok Kumar Sinha of the Consulate Generals of India in San Francisco said it helped police notify relatives and will be working with the family to claim the bodies. Relatives from India and England are on their way to Sunnyvale.

There was another, similar incident involving an Indian family near Los Angeles, California, last year in Oct. Time magazine reported that police discovered the bodies of the Rajaram family in their home on Como Lane. Karthik Rajaram, 45, had shot his mother-in-law, wife and three children to death before killing himself.

Rajaram, a former financial analyst at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Sony Pictures, left two suicide notes — one for police and another for family and friends — and a will. "I understand he was unemployed, his dealings in the stock market had taken a disastrous turn for the worse," said Los Angeles deputy police chief Michel R. Moore. "This was a person who had been quite successful in this arena." Amid news of the global financial crisis and the credit crunch, this murder-suicide has become emblematic of the times — in its way parallelling the deathly plunges of Wall Street stockbrokers in 1929, reported the magazine.

While this murder-suicide is very tragic, the news of violent crime or deadly violence among South Asian-Americans in Silicon Valley is very rare. Most members of the community are well educated with solid middle class backgrounds. Many own their own homes and are known to be highly family oriented, sending their children to the best schools in the valley.

Related Links:

Bigotry Bedevils South Indian Eatery

Silicon Valley Job Cuts Hit H1B Workers

Musharraf in Silicon Valley

Pakistani American: Mr. Thirty Percent of Silicon Valley

Sir Syed Day Mushaira in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley Summit of Pakistani Entrepreneurs


Anwar said...

Very unfortunate and sad event. I do not know if he lost his bearing due to economic hardship of the present times or something else. My sympathies...

Anonymous said...

Guy's a moron. He had a good job at Yahoo and was in no danger of losing it. Anger management case if ever there was one.

Riaz Haq said...


It's really tragic, it seems he was a normal guy who just flipped.

Anonymous said...

It's really tragic, it seems he was a normal guy who just flipped.

Riaz, but there's no excuse to take everyone else down with you. Especially the kids ... unpardonable - no circumstances can mitigate that.

Riaz Haq said...


"there's no excuse to take everyone else down with you. Especially the kids ... unpardonable - no circumstances can mitigate that."

I agree. It's hard to make sense out of something so senseless.

Anonymous said...

What ever happened to the wife, is she ok? Does anyone know?

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "What ever happened to the wife, is she ok? Does anyone know?"

This was last report I saw in Mercury News:

The mother who survived the shooting deaths of her two children and four other relatives is still in critical condition nearly a month after the grisly Santa Clara murder-suicide, according to police.

Abha Appu, 34, still hasn't been well enough to speak in detail to investigators, Santa Clara Police Lt. Phil Cooke told the Mercury News. And a motive for why her husband, Devan Kalathat, 42, shot five relatives to death before killing himself on March 29 has not yet been publicly disclosed.

Appu was shot multiple times in the upper body.

At a housewarming party in the upscale Rivermark development where his family had just moved to from their longtime home in Sunnyvale, police said that Kalathat used two .45-caliber handguns to kill his children, Akhil Dev, 11, and Negha Dev, 4. Police say he also killed his wife's brother, who was visiting from India, Ashokan Appu Poothemkandi, 35; his wife, Suchitra Sivaraman, 25; and their 11-month-old daughter, Ahana. He killed himself, too.

Finances didn't appear to spark the rampage, police said. Kalathat, who also was known as Raghavan Devarajan, was a web analytics engineer at Yahoo.

Anonymous said...

Does any one know if Abha is better now?

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "Does any one know if Abha is better now?"

The last I heard was in July 2009 when Abha was out of the hospital. She was recovering in a care center and using a wheelchair to get around.

Riaz Haq said...

Suicide rates in India are about 5-10 times higher than in Pakistan, according to WHO data reported by Daily Times.

And suicides are on the rise in India, according to Times of India:

NEW DELHI: Every four minute, one person takes his or her life in the country and one in each three of victims is a youth below the age of 30 years, the latest report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has revealed.

According to the 'Accidental Deaths and Suicides 2009' released recently, 68.7 per cent of a total of 1,27,151 people who committed suicide across the country in 2009 were in the age group of 15-44 years.

More than 55 per cent of the suicide victims in Arunachal Pradesh and Delhi were in the age group of 15-29 years -- 56.42 per cent (62 out of 110) of victims in Arunachal Pradesh and 55.3 per cent (817 out of 1,477) in Delhi were in this age group.

"34.5 per cent of the suicide victims were in the age group of 15-29 years and 34.2 per cent were in the middle aged group of 30-44 years," the report said.

"223 males commit suicides per day in the country while the number for women is 125 out of which 69 are house wives. 73 people commit suicide on a single day due to illness while 10 are driven to suicide due to love affairs," it said.

The country witnessed a 1.7 per cent increase in suicide cases in 2009 compared to the previous when it recorded 1,27,151 cases as against 1,22,902, the report said.

West Bengal topped the list with 14,648 cases followed by Andhra Pradesh (14,500), Tamil Nadu (14,424), Maharashtra (14,300) and Karnataka (12,195).

These five states together accounted for 55.1 per cent of the total suicides.

The southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala (8,755) together accounted for 39.2 per cent of the total suicide cases reported in this year.

Delhi recorded 1,477 suicides in 2009. Uttar Pradesh has reported a comparatively lower number of suicidal deaths, accounting for only 3.3 per cent of the total cases. The state accounts for 16.7 per cent of the total population.

"The number of suicides during the decade (1999-2009) has recorded an increase of 15 per cent from 1,10,587 in 1999 to 1,27,151 in 2009. The increase in incidence of suicides was reported each year during the decade except 2000 and 2001," the report said.

On the reasons for people taking extreme steps, family problems and illness topped the list with 23.7 and 21 per cent cases respectively. Love affairs led to 2.9 per cent and dowry dispute, drug abuse and poverty were 2.3 per cent each.

"It is observed that social and economic causes have led most of the males to commit suicides whereas emotional and personal causes have mainly driven females to end their lives," the report said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an NPR report on the abuse of H1b visas:

If you scroll through the government's visa data, you notice something surprising. The biggest employer of foreign tech workers is not Microsoft — not by a long shot. Nor is it Google, Facebook or any other name-brand tech company. The biggest users of H-1Bs are consulting companies, or as Ron Hira calls them, "offshore-outsourcing firms."

"The top 10 recipients in [the] last fiscal year were all offshore-outsourcers. And they got 40,000 of the 85,000 visas — which is astonishing," he says.

Hira's a professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He's also the son of Indian immigrants and has a personal interest in questions of labor flow across borders.

For the past decade, he's been studying how consulting firms use temporary work visas to help American companies cut costs. He says they use the visas to supply cheaper workers here, but also to smooth the transfer of American jobs to information-technology centers overseas.

"What these firms have done is exploit the loopholes in the H-1B program to bring in on-site workers to learn the jobs [of] the Americans to then ship it back offshore," he says. "And also to bring in on-site workers who are cheaper on the H-1B and undercut American workers right here."

The biggest user of H-1B last year was Cognizant, a firm based in New Jersey. The company got 9,000 new visas. Following close behind were Infosys, Wipro and Tata ‑‑ all Indian firms. They're not household names, but they loom large in tech places like the Seattle suburbs.

Cutting Costs

Rennie Sawade, a software designer with 30 years of experience, grew up in Michigan — watching the decline of the auto industry. And so, he went into computers in search of a more secure career. But that's not how it turned out.

"Basically, what I see is, it's happening all over again," Sawade says.

Programmers like him tend to be freelancers, or contract workers, and the big consulting firms are the competition. Sawade remembers when he almost landed a plum job at Microsoft.

"I remember having phone interviews and talking with the manager, having him sound really excited about my experience and he was going to bring me in to meet the team," Sawade recalls.

And then: nothing. He called his own placement agency to find out what happened.

"And that's when they told me, 'Oh, they hired somebody from Tata Consultancy.' And they actually told me on the phone, the woman I was talking to said her jaw just dropped when they found out how little Microsoft was paying this person from Tata Consultancy to do this job," he says.

Riaz Haq said...

The bodies of Karim and Nikhat Kamdar were found at the family home near Sugarland, Texas, after sheriffs responded to a 911 call made by the Kamdars’ daughter, who attempted to flee the scene. The seriously-injured girl, who had been shot in the leg, was found by sheriffs in the front yard of the family home.

The Kamdars’ 11-year-old son was also found seriously injured at the scene of the crime; both children were immediately transported to Hermann Memorial Hospital.

The children have each undergone surgeries and were still hospitalized as of May 13 afternoon but were expected to be released this week into the custody of Child Protective Services, Bob Haenel, spokesman for the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s office, told India-West.

The Sheriff’s Office determined that Karim Kamdar was the shooter, who used a handgun to murder his wife and injure his children before turning the weapon on himself. Haenel said he could not say how many bullet wounds were found on the victims.

Fort Bend County sheriffs ruled out the possibility of a home invasion early in the investigation, noting that there was no evidence of a break-in or forced entry, according to Haenel.

In interviews with law enforcement, neighbors said they saw no one fleeing the scene after the shooting. The Kamdar family were the sole inhabitants of the house, said Haenel, adding that no motive has been determined in the still-open investigation.

The Kamdars belonged to the Ismaili community, which has a strong presence in Sugarland, Texas. A spokeswoman for the local Ismaili community center told India-West that great efforts were being made to support the children, including attempts to place them with distant relatives.

The Ismaili Center released a brief statement from the family, which read: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life of Mr. and Mrs. Kamdar. Family friends, neighbors, associates, employees, and community members have all expressed their grief and support. The number of people here today attests to how this tragedy has touched the lives of so many and we appreciate the outpouring of concern for the family, including the children.”

“We are grateful that both children are recovering from their injuries. We ask for the public's support and prayers that they may bear this loss at such a tender age and that they continue with their lives knowing that there are family and community members ready to assist them in any way they can.”

The statement confirmed that the children were in custody of CPS, and asked that their privacy be respected.

“There is nothing more that we can add to what is known to law enforcement officials about this incident,” read the statement from the family.

Sugarland, Texas county councilman Harish Jajoo also noted the outpouring of support for the family. “Thank God the children are doing much better,” he told India-West.

Nikhat Kamdar – also known as Chandni – owned and operated the American Heritage Academy and Child Care center in Rosenberg, Texas. The 152-child capacity school enrolled children as young as six weeks up to 12 year olds.

“The school was her passion. She wanted to see her kids grow and succeed,” Ashley, a teacher at the center, told India-West.

The educator, who had worked for Nikhat Kamdar for more than two years, described her employer as a “sweet, caring, understanding soul.”

“She helped us out even on personal levels,” said Ashley. The school is still currently operating, despite its owner’s absence.

Multiple news sources state that Karim Kamdar had operated a small supermarket for 12 years in Richmond, Texas, but was forced out a year ago when the owner of the building put in his own business. It is unknown whether Karim Kamdar was employed at the time of the tragedy.

Child protective service officials are reportedly now working to get in contact with the surviving children's relatives in Pakistan and India


Riaz Haq said...

#Hindu Priest Raghua Sharma in #Sacramento #California Arrested for Killing His Lover’s Husband. … via @IndiaWest

The Sacramento, Calif., Indian American community is buzzing about the arrest of Hindu priest Raghua Sharma, who was allegedly involved in killing his lover’s husband.

Ashok Kumar, 60, a resident of Sacramento, was found dead around 11:22 p.m. on Aug. 12, at a home in the 8000 block of Grandstaff Drive, when police responded to a call reporting a burglary in progress.

The Sacramento Bee reported that when the police arrived they found a woman outside the home and a man unresponsive on the floor inside the home. The Sacramento Fire Department arrived and pronounced the man dead. Police said at the time the woman, who was the victim’s wife, told officers that she did not get a good look at the intruder, but investigators did not believe it was a random incident.

The investigators continued the search for suspects, and a month later arrested Kumar’s wife, Rohini Kumar, 53; Tiwan Greenwade, 37; and Vicky Rainone, 47. Following a detailed investigation, the Fiji-born Sharma, 58, was arrested on Oct. 20. Police have not released a motive for the murder, but members of the Hindu American community said Kumar’s wife Rohini was having an affair with Sharma.

"He had a relationship with that woman, people were talking about it in the community," Sunil Prakash told Fox 40 News. “People, they think he was a priest and he was doing these wrong things, you know. What will he teach us?”

Pandit Girwar Maharaj told the news station that the victim had a life insurance policy, and his wife and Sharma were trying to get the money to return to their native place in Fiji.

“Everybody’s talking about it. Oh man, disgrace for the priest,” said Maharaj. “A priest will not consider even killing an ant. So what to talk about killing a human being?”

Along with priestly activities, Sharma also headed a security company called All Seasonal Security Services, with offices in Sacramento, Sunnyvale and Fiji. The All Seasonal Security Services’ Web site lists Sharma as its CEO, and describes him as a man with previous experience in the security business. The company, which was established in Sacramento in 2008, also notes his 14-year experience in the Fiji police force, and his six-year experience in the judicial department in Fiji.

Sharma apparently put on a good priest garb everywhere, including his Facebook page. He blessed homes, married couples and reportedly helped with the funeral of his alleged victim, according to the report.

Although the investigation surrounding the circumstances is still ongoing, detectives believe that there are no outstanding suspects. The case has been handed over to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office for review. The suspects are being held at the Sacramento County Jail.

Riaz Haq said...

Man killed ex-girlfriend's #Indian parents before police fatally shot him, #SanJose chief says. … via @mercnews
A mentally ill young man, apparently bent on revenge after a failed romance, gunned down his ex-girlfriend’s parents in their Willow Glen home and held their 13-year-old son hostage, police said Thursday, in a rare double killing that unsettled residents.

The boy’s father was shot at the front door and police later found his mother inside the home. Neighbors who saw the boy shortly after his release, clad only in shorts and shoes, said he was trembling and sobbing as an officer tried to comfort him.

“I heard him crying, asking the officer, ‘What am I going to do with my life now?'” said Jacob Borysewicz.

The incident began shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday and ended after a two-hour standoff that was marked by negotiations over the boy’s release and ended when the 24-year-old gunman was shot by a San Jose police special tactics marksman after he pointed his weapon at officers from inside the home.

Police said the gunman had been in a relationship that ended last year with the victims’ daughter, and since then he’d been the subject of a restraining order. San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia said “the extent of how that really got to this individual remains to be investigated and thoroughly vetted out.”

But a source familiar with the investigation said Thursday that the suspect killed her parents as payback.

In a chilling phone conversation with police during the standoff, the man said he killed her parents to cause her pain, just as she had caused him pain by breaking up with him, the source said.

Riaz Haq said...

#Indian-#American driver Dr. Dharmesh Patel arrested after intentionally driving #Tesla off a cliff. Patel's wife and their 2 children, a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy, were trapped in the vehicle when emergency responders arrived. All 4 survived.