NEW YORK: More than four years ago, evil walked through a door of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, just after 9 a.m. That evil was in the form of a 20-year-old man, Adam Lanza. By the time he was done heartlessly spraying bullets from a semi-automatic Bushmaster rifle, Lanza had killed 20 children aged between 5 and 10, and five adults.
“Evil visited this community today,” Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy said later, of the massacre.
That same streak of evil came visiting a helpless 38-year-old mother, Sasikala Narra, a software engineer from Andhra Pradesh, India, who worked for Cognizant Technologies, and her bright, cheerful and beautiful six-year-old son, Anish Narra, in Maple Shade, New Jersey, on Thursday, March 23rd.
That evil, yet to be named or caught by law enforcement officials, did something so despicable and cruel that when the details are fully revealed, it will make people around the world despair; spread sadness and gloom.
That evil, in the form of a man or woman, killed the mother and her child by brutally stabbing them. He or she stabbed Anish Narra in the face and hands multiple times, repeatedly, sometime during the course of the day or evening, on March 23rd. The force and nature of the attack was so brutal and ferocious, funeral house personnel who got the two bodies from the New Jersey Medical Examiner’s office on Saturday, March 25, after the autopsy was done, took over six-and-a-half hours reconstructing the bodies, tried to make mother and son look a semblance of what they were once were, a source revealed to News India Times.
Who can look into the face of an innocent six-year-old boy and stab him repeatedly in the face as he tries to protect himself, cut him to pieces? Who can stab a mother to death for trying to protect her son? Or did evil kill the mother first, and then go determinedly go after the child, cowering, crying and shaking with fear after watching his mother butchered?
Was it a stranger who stalked the mother and child to their ground floor house in Fox Meadow Apartments, Maple Shade, New Jersey, after she picked him up from Our Lady of Perpetual Help School and came back home together, as the child chattered away narrating the day’s highlights to his smiling mother? Was it a deranged drug addict who forced his way in, snuffed out two innocent lives, killed them in a fit of uncontrollable rage? Or was it a person known to the mother and son, who walked in smiling through the door, welcomed, and then cold-bloodedly committed the heinous, reprehensible act?
The Maple Shade Police Department and the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office didn’t divulge details of the crime, as of publication, beyond a brief press release they issued a day after the murder, in which they clarified it wasn’t a hate crime. The Maple Shade PD referred a call from News India Times to the prosecutor’s office. Joel Bewley, Public Information Officer in the prosecutor’s office, in two separate interviews, on Monday, and Tuesday, remained noncommittal on details of the double homicide.
Earlier, a neighbor of the victims, Dexter Stevenson, speaking to CBS Philly, remarked: “I didn’t see any damage to the door or any break-ins of that type, so right now this is a mystery.”
The gist of what I’ve gleaned so far: there are no suspects; the case is being investigated by local law enforcement personnel, the FBI is not involved. I didn’t get answers to if surveillance footage was recovered; was anybody seen leaving and entering the house located in a complex popular with Indian immigrants, that day; if it was a case of home invasion, robbery gone bad.
The husband and father of the victims, Hanumantha Rao Narra, a software professional who like his wife reportedly works for Cognizant Technologies, called 911 after he saw the bodies of his wife and son covered in a pool of blood in a bedroom after he came home after 9 p.m. on Thursday, after an office party. He has been interrogated multiple times by the police, for hours, said a source. Another source revealed he’s now living with a friend of his, who’s also from Andhra Pradesh.
In an interview to The Times of India, Hanumantha Narra said on March 23rd, he dropped his son at his school at around 8 am. Later, he dropped Sasikala at her office at 9.15 a.m. When he came home at around 9 p.m., he did not remember if the door to his house was open or not as he was talking on his mobile phone as he walked in. He called out for Anish. When he didn’t respond, he went into the bedroom, where he found him lying in a pool of blood on the cot. Sasikala’s body was on the floor.
Ravi Potluri, a cousin of Sasikala Narra who lives in Collegeville, PA, said in an interview to News India Times that Hanumantha Rao called him “at around 9:09 p.m. on March 23rd.
“I was driving somewhere in Connecticut, when Hanu (husband of Sasikala) called me at around 9:09 pm. He told me he came back from office and found them dead. I told him to call 911, he said he already had,” said Potluri.
Reportedly, Narra had the presence of mind to make several other calls, to his parents, his wife’s parents, his relatives and friends and colleagues, after he called the police.
I asked Bewley if the passport of Hanumantha Rao Narra has been impounded, or has he been asked not to leave state boundaries, or if the investigation is now spanning India as well. I got noncommittal answers. However, the police have sealed the crime scene. Rao’s passport and the passports of the victims are inside the house. He has asked police if he could go to India for the funeral of his wife and child.
What’s puzzling though is why are authorities so sure that this was not an act of hate crime targeting Indians? How can they be so sure? Are they sure of that fact because the attacker they believe is of Indian origin?
News reports from India make it clear that Sasikala Narra and Hanumantha Rao Narra had a terrible domestic life after their love marriage of 14 years soured, broke down. They immigrated to the US 9 years ago. She revealed in an email two years ago to her brother Sunkara Venu in India – the email was released in a press conference there – that her husband was having an affair with a female colleague. Reportedly, he had dared his wife to do what she could, as he went on about his affair. She had expressed her wish to go back to India, stuck on with the marriage for the sake of her son.
A neighbor of the victims, Abdul Salam, in an interview to NJ.com this week, gave an insight to the marriage woes of the couple.
“They argued so much,” Salam said. “It was more him than her. He treated her like s–t. They hardly ever left the house. When they rode in a car, he used to make her sit in the back seat, even if it was just the two of them.” He added that he would speak to Sasikala while coming and going, but noticed a change recently. “You could see it in her face, sadness, very unhappy,” Salam said. “She told me she wanted to go home to India. She told me she was going to leave him.”
For now, the deaths of the mother and son is shrouded in mystery. No motive has been established, financial or otherwise. There are no named suspect(s). Meanwhile, the bodies of the victims are being sent to India, sometimes later this week, for the last rites. But here too there’s controversy.
Mohan Nannapaneni, past president of TANA, said in an interview to News India Times that families of Hanumantha Rao Narra, from Prakasam District, and Sasikala Narra, from Vijayawada, are not yet on terms as to who would receive the bodies, once it reaches India.
What we do know for sure is that evil visited Maple Shade, last week.
Salam also spoke about little Anish, whom he was fond of.
“I’m used to that kid, every time I come home, speaking to him,” Salam said. “I just called him ‘little man.’ That kid always seemed to know when I was coming home. He would peek out of the door when I went by. He was always happy.”
As the police go about their business to bring the culprit or culprits to book for this horrendous crime, there’s not much the public can do except speculate and grieve. But they can do one thing for sure: hug loved ones – spouse, parent, child, sibling, before he or she goes to sleep tonight. Who knows where evil will come knocking next.