An unemployed man with an advance finance degree who was despondent over his own financial problems shot and killed his wife, three children, mother-in-law and then himself in an upscale home in a gated community, police said Monday.
Officers found the bodies Monday morning making a welfare check after the wife failed to show up at a neighbor's home for her carpool to go to work as a pharmacy bookmaker, Deputy Chief Michel Moore said. Friends went to the house only to find it strangely quiet. The morning newspaper lay in the frontyard. The family's two cars, a Suburban and a Lexus SUV, were parked in the driveway.
Officers went into the gated community, and approached 20644 Como Lane. Police then entered the large, 2,800-square-foot modern home in the San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Porter Ranch, called Sorrento Pointe set in the foothills of the Santa Susana Mountains about 23 miles northwest of LA, found the mother-in-law, Indra Ramashesham, 69, shot to death in bed downstairs, he said.
The AP report states that the other bodies were found throughout the house but not in bed. A Straits Times article reports that the 19-year-old son, Krishna Rajaram, a sophomore at UCLA majoring in business economics, was found upstairs dead in bed in the master bedroom. The wife, Subasri, 39, was found in another room, also apparently shot while sleeping, Moore said. In an adjoining room, a 12-year-old son, Ganesha, was dead on the floor, and his 7-year-old brother, Arjuna, was dead in bed. The father's body was found there with a handgun "in his grasp", More said. The father, Krishana Rajaram, was 45.
Coroner's assistant chief Ed Winter said the family was from India, and the mother-in-law was an Indian national, but he did not know the status of the others. "I think they are legal residents," he said. Winter also stated the victims were shot multiple times. All had been shot in the head.
Moore stated, the deaths occurred sometime after 6 p.m. Saturday evening, Moore said.
A handgun that had been bought Sept. 16 was found near the father's body, Moore said. The father left two suicide notes - one for police and one for friends and relatives - and a will. "This is a perfect American family behind me that has absolutely been destroyed, apparently because of a man who just got stuck in a rabbit hole, if you will, of absolute despair, somehow working his way into believing this to be an acceptable exit," said Moore.
The man wrote in his suicide letter that he felt he had two options - to just kill himself or to kill himself and his family - and he decided the second option was more honorable, Moore said. "The source of it appears to be a financial state, a crisis if you will, that this man become embroiled in that has unfolded over the past weeks," Moore said. In the suicide letters, "he attests to some financial difficulties, takes responsibility for the taking of the lives of his family members and himself as a result of those financial difficulties," Moore said. "We believe that he has become despondent recently over financial dealings and the financial situation of his household." Moore did not specify what financial trouble the man had been in. He noted that the family did not own the home.
The landlords, another Indian couple, said that the family paid their rent on time and that there were no indications of trouble.
The man had no record of mental disabilities or contacts with mental health professionals in Los Angeles County, Moore said.
Rajaram should have been sitting fairly well, financially. The father had a master's of business administration in finance, formerly worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers and Sony Pictures, but had been unemployed for several months, Moore said.
PricewaterhouseCoopers spokesman Steven Silber said Karthik Rajaram last worked for the company in 1999. "This is a terrible tragedy, about which we are very saddened. However, Mr. Rajaram has not worked for PWC for nearly a decade, so it would be inappropriate for us to comment further," Siber said.
Sony Pictures Entertainment spokesman Steve Elzer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Investigators have determined that Rajaram was at least the part-owner of a financial holding company, Moore said. He is listed as a co-manager of a corporation called SKGL, which is incorporated in Nevada, according to state records. He formed the corporation for his family's assets and used his family members' initials to form the name, said Las Vegas attorney Christopher R. Grobl. Grobl did not know what sort of business SKGL was or why Rajaram incorporated in Nevada. The business was incorporated in 1999 and renewed its annual license in December 2007.
The LA Times reported that Rajaram was a financial manager who once made more than $1.2 million in a London-based venture fund. A 2001 article in The Daily Telegraph of London, under the headline "Bust, but big bucks for the big boys," called Rajaram a "winner" in a deal for NanoUniverse, a Los Angeles- and London-based venture fun taken public on the London Stock Exchange. For a 12,500-pound investment, Rajaram, one of the company's founders, received 875,000 pounds - or about $1.2 million in 2001 dollars - after a voluntary liquidation, the newspaper reported.
In 2003 and 2004, Rajaram worked for Greg Robinson, an entrepreneur and founder of several companies, at Azur Partners LLC, a management consulting agency. Robinson said he was forced to fire Rajaram becuase "his life wasn't moving in the right direction." "He had some behavioral problems," Robinson said. "He wasn't reliable... He was not an emotionally stable person. It was a real problem and would affect any business he was involved in." The two had also worked together in the Century City office of PWC and Robinson recalled Rajaram as being "a very smart guy," who believed posted a perfect score on his business school entrance exam. Although Karns and her husband said they liked Karthik and were stunned by the news, they said he was "very high-strung, very intense." "The man was never relaxed," Sue Karns said.
Rajaram sold their Northridge house in 2006, a calculated decision even though his wife, did not want to move, their former neighbors said. He sold the house for $750,000, making a sizeable profit on a home the couple purchased in 1997 for $274,000. "The market was going down and he wanted to get out before the bottom dropped out," Sue Karns a previous-neighbor said. "I talked to him last December and he said, 'I feel I did a good thing by selling when I did.'"
It is unclear how Rajaram invested the cash since then and how he lost it.
Neighbors in the Northridge neighborhood where the family previously lived said they were well-liked and enjoyed entertaining guests. Except for one night when residents heard a man screaming for hours, the family seemed content for the nine years they lived there. "He loved those kids more than any man I've seen love his sons," said next-door neighbor Sue Karns.
In the Porter Ranch neighborhood, next-door neighbor Kinda Almukaddem said she had rarely spoken to the family since they moved in a couple of years ago. But in the last two weeks, Rajaram visited her twice 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. She stated he seemed nervous - shaking, packing and taking notes on a notepad as he spoke to her. "He noticed my side windows were open, the side that my house shares with him," she said. "Now, come to think of it, I think he was trying to have me close my windows on that side so I wouldn't hear anything."
In their current neighborhood, Ryan Ransdell, who lives across the street, said the house had been occupied by the family for about a year. "It's very quiet here, " Ransdell said. "That's what's so shocking about this... You'd think someone would have heart it. You can hear a car door shut at night." Ransdell said he didn't hear any gunshots on Saturday night. "They didn't socialize too much," he said. "They kept pretty much to themselves."