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September 23, 1999
Family Struggles To Cope With Murders
The family of the couple found murdered in their veterinary clinic a week ago is still struggling to find answers to the tragedy.
"I can't believe it has happened. It's tragic. It's shocking. My parents were good people, hard-working and dedicated. They were god-fearing and very Indian," said their oldest daughter Namita Chaudhary, 27, yesterday.
"They bought us up lovingly in a Western society in a traditional Indian way. They did everything by the book. My wedding, pujas and all the festivals," said Chaudhary, a dentist, who spent the last weekend with her parents at their home in a small town near Washington DC, cleaning and restoring their teeth.
Nirwan T Thapar, 61, and his wife Shashi, 52, were shot dead last Wednesday inside their veterinary clinic in the 5600 block of Annapolis Road in Bladensburg by an unknown assailant. Prince George County police, who have made no arrests but are pursuing several leads, referred all questions to their public information office.
"The double homicide is under investigation. They are releasing very few details. They are unusually quiet about this one," said Matt Meterko, the public information officer.
"We do know that robbery might have been a motive and we are searching for a white male who was seen outside the clinic. He may be a witness or a suspect. We don't know at this point but we are urging him to come forward," Meterko said.
Meterko said there was no forced entry at the clinic and that the Thapars may have let in the suspects.
Chaudhary says she will never forget the sight of her parents' bodies.
"My dad died instantly with two shots. My mother was shot in the eye, throat and chest," she said.
The daughter somberly described her parents being laid on the platform. "There were no coffins. We dressed our father in a black suit with a red and black tie, with a rotary pin on his lapel. My mother, we dressed almost like a bride, in a pink and gold sari," she said.
The daughters say they are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, respect and support from the community.
"We were so shocked by what happened, but we were glad to see so many people come to offer their condolences. So many cared about my parents," said Ruchika, 21, the Thapars's second daughter. She lived with her parents in their Lanham home and is applying to medical school, a task her mother was helping her with.
The funeral, which was held in Arlington, Virginia, on Saturday, was attended by over 700 people. Son-in-law Naveen Chaudhary, 28, a financial analyst, carried out the duties of the son.
"We actually heard the news from a family member. From then on, my husband's family has stayed at our side," said Chaudhary, who added that her in-laws and parents were very close.
The last memorial service is to be held at the Durga temple in Arlington. Later, the Indian community will hold a vigil outside the clinic. The Rotary Club, where the Thapars were actively involved for 25 years, will hold a peace march on Friday.
The family will immerse the Thapars' ashes at Hardwar.
Nirman Thapar came from Ludhiana in Punjab and Shashi was from New Delhi, The couple moved to Maryland in 1976 when Nirwan got a job with the US department of agriculture. Later, Thapar operated a veterinary clinic in Anne Arndel County for years before he started his clinic at Bladensburg Animal Hospital, which he took over from a retiring veterinarian.
He was also the founder of the Indian Association of Veterinarians, which he began in 1993. He was the first president, and today there are more than a hundred members.
The daughters have vowed to contribute significantly to the issue of gun control.
"After all this over, we will write letters, call the Congressmen, do something," said Chaudhary, who explained that the deaths were preceded by another member of their family who was shot in an random shooting in Merit and who is now in critical condition.
"When will all this stop? Are we going to lose all our family members to guns?" asked Chaudhary.
The police are looking for a white male with an olive complexion, between 25 to 30 years old, 6' tall with a thin build, dark hair, slight moustache, wearing a light colored shirt and dark pants. And they are asking anyone with information to call (301) 735-1111 or 800-673-2777.
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