After the sensational news of a woman in Kerala, Jolly Joseph’s heinous crime of killing six of her family members by cyanide over the years, came revelation of yet another shocking crime, this time from California: an Indian American data scientist, Shankar Nagappa Hangud, confessed to killing four of his family members over the course of a week before he turned himself over to the police and confessed to his crime, earlier this week.
The officers on duty at a police station in northern California on Monday did not initially believe a man who walked into the lobby and declared that he had killed several people, one of whom was in his car outside, reported The Washington Post.
The man entered the Mount Shasta department around 12:10 p.m. and said he had committed murder at his home in Roseville, more than 200 miles south, police said. Officers confirmed a man’s body was in the car, and Roseville police found another adult and two juveniles dead at an apartment on Junction Boulevard, police said.
“He just came in and told our dispatcher that I want to confess to a murder, and then just gave it up,” Sgt. Robert Gibson of Mount Shasta told the New York Times. “I have never had someone come in with a body and turn themselves in here. This was unusual for us.”
Police on Tuesday identified the suspect as Shankar Hangud, 53, and said he may have killed the victims – his relatives – over several days.
Hangud was calm and straightforward when he arrived at the police station, Gibson told the Times, and did not say anything about why he allegedly killed the victims. Police declined to reveal the victims’ manner of death.
Hangud is in custody and has been charged with four counts of murder. Police said they believe Hangud acted alone and do not think there is a threat to the public.
According to Heavy.com, officials have not yet determined a motive. Hangud was booked into the Placer County Jail.
According to the complaint, investigators believe that two of the victims were killed on October 7. The third victim is believed to have died on October 8. Police documents allege that Hangud then killed a fourth victim in Siskyou County on Sunday.
Police Captain Josh Simon explained during a news conference that investigators were piecing together a timeline to determine where Hangud traveled after leaving his apartment with the fourth victim. “Detectives are trying to backtrack to find if there are any other crimes scenes along the path or whatever direction the suspect took to get to the Mount Shasta Police department.”
Roseville Police did not immediately release the names and ages of the four victims. But the department did specify that the victims included two adults and two children.
At least one of the victims appears to have been a young teenager. Fox40 in Sacramento published a statement from Dry Creek Schools Superintendent Brad Tooker that read, “It is with a heavy heart I inform you, pending confirmation from authorities, we believe one of the victims in the Carmel at Woodcreek West apartment complex homicide may have been one of our treasured Silverado Middle School students.”
Roseville Police confirmed that the fourth victim, who was found in Hangud’s vehicle, was an adult male “of East Indian descent.”
Hangud used to work at a company called Alluma Social Interest Solutions located in downtown Sacramento, reported Heavy.com. According to its website, the company provides consulting services and solutions.
Hangud wrote on his LinkedIn page that his title was “ETL Architect and Manager.” He wrote in the bio section that his responsibilities included “Defining strategy, architecting solutions and managing processes for over 10 years, helping organizations in leveraging technologies to enhance their capabilities with their long-term strategies as well as short term tactical business objectives.”
A spokesperson for Alluma, Katie Tamony, confirmed to CBS Sacramento that Hangud was a former employee. “He worked here for Alluma until 2018. He worked here for two years. It’s very tragic and I feel terrible for his family.”
Hangud appears to have had financial struggles. According to federal tax records, Hangud owed $178,603.48 to the IRS as of May of 2019 and faced a Federal Tax Lien, reported Heavy.com.
When the IRS places a lien on a property, it means that when the property is sold, the IRS gets paid first. The taxpayer and the mortgage holder (for example, the bank) receives what’s left. It is a matter of public record and is removed once the property owner pays the tax debt.
The IRS explains liens on its website: “A federal tax lien is the government’s legal claim against your property when you neglect or fail to pay a tax debt. The lien protects the government’s interest in all your property, including real estate, personal property and financial assets.”
The tax record indicates that the tax liability dates back to 2012. The lien appears to have been placed on Hangud’s property on May 7, 2019.
According to the Superior Court of California for Placer County, Hangud has faced only one charge within the past 40 years. It was merely a traffic violation.
Hangud was pulled over in December of 2016 for speeding. He was ordered to appear in court but based on the public record, he did not show up. (It reads, “Conviction: Guilty in Absentia w/CA”). He was issued a fine of $366.
The Sacramento Bee reported county prosecutors, in a four-page complaint filed Wednesday morning, charged Hangud with four counts of murder, along with special allegations of committing multiple murders and of committing offenses in multiple jurisdictions.
KCRA.com reported the victims are listed in the felony complaint only by their initials: JS, GH, NH, and VH. A representative in the Placer County Coroner’s Office told KCRA 3 that they are working with the Indian Consulate to contact the legal next of kin before releasing the victims’ identities. The next of kin lives in India.
Hangud, wearing a heavy green safety suit and shackled at the waist, was surrounded by a trio of Placer County sheriff’s deputies as he sat behind Plexiglas in the courtroom’s holding cell, reported the Sacramento Bee. A somber Hangud told Placer Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Penney, twice, then once again that he did not want an attorney and would not be seeking one.
“No, your honor. I do not want an attorney,” Hangud answered again before Martin Jones, an attorney with the Placer County Public Defender’s Office stepped in. After a brief discussion, Hangud agreed to be represented by the public defender.
Jones asked Penney to postpone Hangud’s arraignment to October 25 and accepted from prosecutors the first pages of what is expected to be voluminous discovery in the case.
“He wanted to represent himself. I told him that’s not a good idea,” Jones told reporters outside Penney’s courtroom at Placer County’s Santucci Justice Center in Roseville. “We all believe it’s a bad idea considering the potential consequences.”
Asked if Hangud’s reported confession complicates his defense, Jones replied, “Yes, yes it does. Certainly with a confession, it changes our strategy considerably.”
Jones did not speculate on Hangud’s mental state, the Bee report said. He hadn’t talked to the accused quadruple murderer other than the brief moments before Penney and likely wouldn’t until Thursday, he told reporters. But asked about Hangud’s safety suit, he said, “I imagine he’s on a (safety) watch because he’s wearing that. It’s fair to say he’s experiencing a great amount of grief and remorse.”
Jones said the charges constitute a capital case. That means that if convicted, Hangud could face the death penalty, even though a moratorium is currently in place under Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Placer County Deputy District Attorney Dave Tellman told the judge his office had not yet made a decision on whether to seek the death penalty against Hangud. In an interview with The Sacramento Bee following the afternoon hearing, Tellman said his office has a death penalty review with capital cases.
“We use the same process in every (capital) case and analyze the evidence and the facts under that criteria,” Tellman said. “Whether the governor has issued a moratorium, that’s not part of our process.”
The police were calling on the public to help them puzzle out what led to the killings.
The crimes stunned Roseville and Placer County, according to the Bee report. A quadruple homicide hadn’t been committed in Placer County since a family was massacred by ranch hand Arturo Juarez Suarez at their property in 1998. The Auburn man raped a woman and killed her two children, her husband and her brother-in-law, burying their bodies at the ranch. Suarez was condemned to death in 2001.