Indian-American family found dead in Iowa home was possibly murder-suicide: Police


A family of four, two parents and two children, were found dead in their new home in West Des Moines June 15, after a passerby called police.

According to the West Des Moines Police Department, investigation continues into the family of Chandrasekhar Sunkara, his wife Lavanya and two boys.

Chandrasekhar Sunkara, 44, of West Des Moines, Iowa, was found dead with his wife and two sons, in their home. (Photo: Facebook)

According to updated information posted June 17 afternoon on the Police Department Facebook page, autopsies were conducted by the State Medical Examiner’s Office and the cause of death for the family members was determined to be gunshot wounds.


The manners of death for Lavanya Sunkara and the two boys are homicide. The manner of death for Chandrasekhar Sunkara is suicide, the West Des Moines Police Department said.

Officials are working with surviving family members to provide support. Investigators are continuing to review evidence and conduct interviews.

The home is located in the 900 block of 65th Street. Chandrasekhar Sunkara 44 years old, Lavanya Sunkara 41 years old, and children aged 15 and 10, who were pronounced dead at the scene by what police immediately discerned were from gunshot wounds to each.

Police say other family members, two adults and two children, were staying as guests. When the victims were discovered, one of the survivors ran outside looking for help. He found someone walking through the neighborhood and that person called 911.

Lavanya Sunkara updated her profile picture on Facebook April 17, 2019. She was found dead of a gunshot wound June 15, in her Iowa home. (Photo:Facebook)

In a June 16 press release, the Iowa Department of Public Safety revealed that Chandrasekhar “Chandra” Sunkara was an employee of DPS. Chandra was a civilian employee in the Technology Services Bureau (TSB) where he served as an IT professional, the DPS said. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the Sunkaras,” the DPS said, adding that counseling services were available for those needing them.

An report quoted Shrikar Somayajula co-owner of A Grade Ahead, an after-school enrichment program, saying the two boys were very bright students and wanted to attended Ivy League colleges.

NBCnews quoted Somayajula saying that the family was friendly, and, “You don’t see something like this happen in the Indian community, let alone a heinous act like this… We have more questions than answers now as to why this happened, and we will probably never find out.”

According to Sunkara’s Facebook page which is still up, he received the Governor’s Excellence Award in 2010. A comment from a friend, Pradeep Jonnalagadda, March 23, 2011, says about the award, “Remembering how you studied during our student days your achievement doesn’t surprise me.”

The information on Facebook shows Chandrasekhar Sunkara went to St. Andrews High School (Worthing), and studied at MVSR, possibly the acronym for Maturi Venkata Subba Rao Engineering College in Nadergul, Hyderabad, Telangana.

Lavanya Sunkara’s Facebook page gives nothing about her background. But a 2014 photo of their two sons in Lego Land are on the site.

The Des Moines Register reported the Sunkaras had moved into the house in March. According to, the house, 935, 65th Street in West Des Moines, last sold for $570,000.

The Des Moines Register reported the Sunkaras had moved into the house in March.

“Officials are working with surviving family members to provide support. Investigators are continuing to review evidence and conduct interviews,” the West Des Moines Police Department said.




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