Santa Clara murder-suicide victims identified

March 31, 2009 7:15:35 PM PDT
Santa Clara police today identified the victims and alleged gunman in a grisly murder-suicide Sunday night and provided a glimpse into the "difficult family dynamics" that spiraled into violence and claimed six lives.

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Police and paramedics were called to a town home at 4350 Headen Way around 8:30 p.m. Sunday after a woman stumbled bleeding from the home and asked a neighbor to call for help, saying her husband had shot her and that other victims were inside.

Six people, including the alleged gunman, were found shot in the home's kitchen and dining room area. All six died of their injuries, and the woman remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Police Lt. Phil Cooke today identified the alleged gunman as 42-year-old Devan Kalathat.

Kalathat is believed to have shot and injured his wife, whose name has not been released, and killed the couple's son and daughter, 11-year-old Akhil Dev and 4-year-old Negha Dev.

He also shot and killed his brother-in-law, Ashok Appu Poothemkandi, 35; Poothemkandi's wife, 25-year-old Suchitra Sivaraman; and the couple's 11-month-old daughter Ahana Ashok, Cooke said.

Kalathat shot his family members with two .45-caliber semi-automatic pistols he had bought recently. Both guns were purchased legally, one in February and one about two weeks ago in local gun stores, Cooke said.

Cooke said he was not able to say whether Kalathat's wife is expected to survive. He said police are not releasing some details of the investigation "with her rights in mind."

Police are still investigating the motive but Cooke said the murders didn't appear to be rooted in financial problems, and that the motive was likely related to "family dynamics and personal relationships."

When asked if police are investigating any history of domestic violence, Cooke said that effort is "a work in progress."

Kalathat worked in information technology at Yahoo and there was no reason to believe his job was in jeopardy, Cooke said.

Kalathat and his wife had just moved to the town home, which is part of the Rivermark development, from Sunnyvale, where their son and daughter were enrolled in fifth grade and preschool at the Challenger School. All family members are American citizens.

The wife's brother, Poothemkandi, and his family were visiting from India and Poothemkandi had just started working at Hewlett-Packard, Cooke said, on a project expected to last a year. They arrived the first week of March, Cooke said, and were not staying at the house on Headen Way.

Poothemkandi and his family resided in the state of Tamil Nadu, in the southernmost part of the country, according to Ashoka Sinha of the Consulate General of India's office in San Francisco. The family is originally from the neighboring state of Kerala, he said.

A relative is traveling to the United States, he said. The Santa Clara County medical examiner's office will not make any official declarations of the victims' identities until family arrives.

At a news conference this afternoon, assistant Chief of Police Kevin Kyle expressed sorrow for the victims and their families and praised the actions of the city's emergency responders. Kyle said firefighters and paramedics who arrived on the scene rushed into the home to try to stabilize and rescue the victims, "without knowing the whereabouts or intent of the gunman."

Kyle said it is a general belief among police officers that the worst crimes to witness are ones involving violence to children.

"Multiply this several times over," he said of the officers who arrived to investigate the scene inside the town house.

Anyone who knew the family is encouraged to call the police information hotline at (408) 615-4826.

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