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US meltdown forces Indian American to kill self, family of five

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Los Angeles/Washington : An Indian American millionaire, who turned pauper overnight in the great American meltdown, killed his wife, mother-in-law and three sons and then took his own life in one of the first tragedies linked to the deepening financial crisis.

Karthik Rajaram (45), was found dead in his upscale Porter Ranch home in Los Angeles Monday along with his wife Subasri (39), mother-in-law Indra Ramaseshan (69) and sons, Arjuna (7), Ganesha (12) and Krishna (19).

When police entered the home in the gated, Spanish-style community, they first found Rajaram’s mother-in-law in a downstairs bedroom. His wife and son Krishna, a student at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) majoring in business economics, were discovered in various upstairs bedrooms, all shot in the head, some with multiple gunshot wounds.

Rajaram himself was found dead in a bedroom with Ganesha and Arjuna, the gun still in his hand, police 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, somehow working his way into believing this to be an acceptable exit,” said Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Michel Moore.

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

Rajaram, the Porter Ranch financial manager who once made more than $1.2 million in a London-based venture fund, had lost his job, according to the Los Angeles Times. His luck playing the stock market too ran out.

On Sep 16, he bought a gun. He wrote two suicide notes and a last will and testament. And then, sometime between Saturday night and Monday morning, he killed his family before taking his own life.

In a letter addressed to police, Rajaram blamed his actions on economic hardships. A second letter, labelled “personal and confidential”, was addressed to family friends; the third contained a last will and testament, Moore said.

The letter to police voiced two options: taking his own life, or killing himself and his entire family. “He talked himself into the second strategy,” Moore said. “That that would be the honourable thing to do.”

Authorities believe Rajaram killed his family and himself after seeing his finances wiped out by the stock market collapse, the Times said citing a source familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Concern about the family’s welfare began Monday morning when Rajaram’s wife, Subasri, did not show up for her carpool. Friends went to the house in the 20600 block of Como Lane, only to find it strangely quiet. The morning newspaper lay in the front yard. The family’s two cars, a Suburban and a Lexus SUV, were parked in the driveway.

The Rajarams had lived in the upscale Sorrento neighbourhood of Porter Ranch for a couple of years in a 2,800-square-foot rented house. The landlords, an Indian couple, said that the family paid their rent on time and that there were no indications of trouble.

Neighbours in the Northridge neighbourhood 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.

But Rajaram, who held an MBA from the University of California, was a hard-driving businessman involved in several financial ventures.

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 fund 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.

He also sold his house in 2006, a calculated decision even though his wife, a bookkeeper at a pharmacy, did not want to move, their former neighbours said. He sold the house for $750,000, making a sizable profit on a home the couple purchased in 1997 for $274,000.

It is unclear how Rajaram invested the cash since then and how he lost it.

In 2003 and 2004, he 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 because “his life wasn’t moving in the right direction”.

“He had some behavioural 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 PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Robinson recalled Rajaram as being “a very smart guy”, who he believed posted a perfect score on his business school entrance exam.