6 Die in Economy-Related Murder-Suicide in Los Angeles

October 8, 2008

The only hints of trouble in the big beige house on Como Lane were the newspapers in the driveway and the lack of any activity behind the front door.

But when police summoned by worried friends of the residents got inside Monday, they found a horror — six members of a family fatally shot in a murder-suicide committed by an unemployed father in financial crisis.

The body of 45-year-old Karthik Rajaram, a gun clutched in one hand, was found by officers who followed a trail of carnage through the home in a gated community in the Porter Ranch area of the San Fernando Valley.

His victims, most slain in their beds, were his wife, three sons and his mother-in-law.

“Absolute devastation,” Deputy Chief Michel Moore told reporters outside the home.

Investigators quickly found two suicide letters and a will, and determined that Rajaram held a master’s degree and once worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, a major accounting firm, and for Sony Pictures.

But he had been unemployed for several months and his finances had reached a crisis point in recent weeks, Moore said.

“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,” Moore said. “It is critical to step up and recognize we are in some pretty troubled times.”

Rajaram wrote in his suicide letter that he felt he had two options — to kill himself or to kill himself and his family — and decided the second option was more honorable, Moore said. The gun was purchased Sept. 16.

The bodies were found when officers were sent to make a check on the home Monday morning after the wife, Subasri, 39, failed to show up at a neighbor’s home for her ride to work as a pharmacy bookkeeper, Moore said.

Officers found the mother-in-law, Indra Ramasesham, 69, dead in bed on the first floor. Upstairs, they found Subasri Rajaram dead in one room, and the 19-year-old son, Krishna, a college student, dead in another, Moore said.

In a third room, 12-year-old Ganesha was dead on the floor, and his 7-year-old brother, Arjuna, was dead in bed. Their father’s body was nearby with a handgun “in his grasp,” Moore said.

Coroner’s assistant chief Ed Winter said the victims were shot multiple times, sometime between midnight Saturday and early Monday morning.

Rajaram had no record of mental disabilities or contacts with mental health professionals in Los Angeles County, Moore said.

But one of Rajaram’s co-workers at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Greg Robinson, told the Los Angeles Daily News that he had hired Rajaram to work at his management consulting agency, but then fired him in 2005 after seeing erratic behavior.

“He would miss phone calls and miss meetings and sometimes couldn’t be found for a couple of days,” Robinson said. “There obviously was some kind of under-story to his life that we weren’t aware of.”

Moore did not give details on the family’s financial problems, but noted that the family did not own the home. The Los Angeles Times said he had sold a home in Northridge in 2006 for a large profit.

“The market was going down and he wanted to get out before the bottom dropped out,” Northridge neighbor Sue Karns told the newspaper. “I talked to him last December and he said, ‘I feel I did a good thing by selling when I did.”‘

Rajaram had sold the house for $750,000 after paying $274,000 for it nine years earlier, the newspaper said. The Times also said he was reported to have made more than $1 million in 2001 after investing in a venture fund called NanoUniverse.

A Sony Pictures Entertainment spokesman did not return a call seeking comment on Rajaram’s time there.

PricewaterhouseCoopers spokesman Steven Silber said Rajaram last worked for the company in 1999, but said it would be inappropriate to comment further. “This is obviously a terrible tragedy,” he said.

Winter said the family was from India. He said the older woman was from India, and did not know the citizenship status of the others. “I think they are legal residents,” he said.

The oldest son, Krishna, was enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles, as a junior majoring in business economics, the school said.

Nevada records show Rajaram is listed as a co-manager of a corporation formed in 1999 called SKGL LLC. He created it for his family’s assets, said Las Vegas attorney Christopher R. Grobl, but Grobl did not know what sort of business SKGL was or why it was incorporated in Nevada.

Associated Press writer Jacob Adelman contributed to this report.

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