M A I N   N E W S

First victims of global financial meltdown
Indian-American kills self, family
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

The troubled US economy has claimed its first known victims. An unemployed Indian-American man, upset over losing his high-profile job to the global financial meltdown and finding himself a pauper from a millionaire overnight by the plunging US stock market, killed his wife, three sons and mother-in-law before committing suicide himself outside Los Angeles over the weekend.

The police says Karthik Rajaram, 45, who had an MBA in finance, fatally shot his wife Subasari, 39, sons Krishna, 19, Ganesh, 12, and Arjuna, 7, and mother-in-law Indra, 69, before killing himself in upscale San Fernando valley, 20 miles northwest of Los Angeles. He was apparently distraught after losing money in the stock market collapse. Suicide rates in the US skyrocketed during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

According to a Los Angeles Times report, Rajaram bought a gun on September 16. He wrote two suicide notes and a last will and testament. And then, sometime between Saturday night and Monday morning he went about committing the crime.

“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,” Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michel Moore told the Times. “It is critical to step up and recognise we are in some pretty troubled times.”

The Rajarams had lived in a 2,800-sq ft rented house. The landlords, another Indian couple, said the family paid their rent on time and that there were no indications of trouble. Rajaram made $1.2 million in a deal for NanoUniverse, a Los Angeles and London-based venture fund taken public on the London Stock Exchange in 2001. Everything seemed to go downhill since then. “We believe he had become despondent recently over financial dealings and because of the financial situation of his household,” Moore said.

The shootings were discovered after 8:20 am Monday, after a neighbour called the police to report that the wife had failed to pick her up to take her to her job at a pharmacy, Moore said.

In a letter addressed to the police, Rajaram reportedly 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 the police voiced two options: taking his own life, or killing himself and his entire family. “He talked himself into the second strategy,” Moore told the Times. “That it would be the honourable thing to do.”

Rajaram, who had been unemployed for several months, had worked for major accounting firms, such as Price Waterhouse. The 19-year-old son Krishna Rajaram was a Fulbright scholar and honours student at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Sue Karns, a neighbour, told the Times that Rajaram was a loving father but she described him as “very high-strung, very intense.” “The man was never relaxed,” she said.

A former employer, Greg Robinson, said Rajaram had “some behavioural problems.” Robinson said he was forced to fire Rajaram because “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.”



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