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|June 30, 2000|
Why Viswanath killed his family and himself?
It is a month since Mandapaka Viswanath, 45, a software developer from an upscale neighbourhood in Gwinnett County, Atlanta, Georgia, shot his wife Gauri and son Vijay and then killed himself, but police and friends are still baffled why he did it. The police, now convinced that Viswanath himself was behind the ghastly incident, have decided to close the case.
"We will never know the motive," said Sergeant Hudson of the Atlanta Homicide Department.
The police have sent the gun Viswanath allegedly used to the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) to ascertain the date it was purchased.
Friends of Viswanath's family are disappointed that detectives did not pursue the case with more enthusiasm. It was they the friends who had followed up all leads left behind by Viswanath, and talked to office colleagues and people known to the family.
"They did not contact anybody. The detectives said there was nothing to go after and that they will never know the motive," said a dismayed friend.
They have now formed a committee to help facilitate the transfer of all assets to the families back in India. After speaking to office colleagues of Viswanath and his wife and going through all the financial documents that were in the house, the committee has concluded that financial problems or debts did not drive Viswanath to end the lives of his family and himself.
"He had a comfortable bank balance and had no debts, as far as we could see. Even if both had quit their jobs, they could have lived comfortably for about three months at least," said close friend Shyam Tiwari.
The committee has asked the relatives in India to procure a court order to help them access a locker of the couple.
Though the Viswanaths appeared outwardly a normal couple, friends speculate that maybe marital problems led to the bloody end. "Viswanath was a quiet, religious person, but he did have a hot temper. Something must have happened in the family to trigger this, but all this is only speculation," said one friend. One of the neighbour's children remarked that while Gauri and Vijay seemed okay, Viswanath was "weird".
Friends of Gauri speak of marital spats between the couple, but nothing which could end in murder.
Eleven-year-old Vijay and his mother Gauri were last seen by their neighbour's children at about 4.30pm. Vijay was in the pool swimming. The police say that some time between then and 7.30pm, Viswanath shot his wife once, then blindfolded his son and shot him twice in the basement of the house they had bought only last year. He wrapped the bodies in a pile of clothes and placed them both on couches. He then poured some fire accelerator on the stairs, the basement and on himself and set himself on fire.
The fire brigade found the bodies. Viswanath's charred body was found with a .38 calibre gun, the handle of which was slightly burnt. He had a manual beside him. There were two unused bullets in the gun. The bodies of Gauri and Vijay lay on the couches, untouched by the fire.
Before committing the murders, Viswanath sent two emails at 4.16 and 4.23 to his brother-in-law in Calcutta and a friend in Jamshedpur, respectively. In the emails, he said he was resorting to this extreme step because he had "messed up his life".
"There is nothing for me to live for, that is why I am taking the lives of Gauri and Vijay. I don't want them to live in agony. I'm taking Vijay's life because I don't want him to live in stigma." He then asked the friend to hand over some cheques to his mother-in-law since he had taken her daughter's life. In the email to his brother-in-law, he wrote, "We are all dead here. Lead your life without Gauri and Vijay. You will receive calls from the US."
Known to be a meticulous person, Viswanath had also left his and Gauri's driving licences in the mailbox, with a copy of Vijay's green card and a list of phone numbers of office, friends and family. He had also asked that the bodies be cremated. Since no family members could come from India, the Atlanta chapter of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad cremated the bodies on June 5. The Viswanaths were VHP members. The ashes were sent to India for the last rites.
Friends are still unable to come to terms with the incident. "It is hounding all of us. Why this extreme step?" asks close friend Tiwari. The Tiwaris and four other families had gone on vacation with the Viswanaths to Hawaii just a couple of weeks before the incident. Only two days before the suicide-murders, all the families had gathered at Viswanath's place and exchanged pictures taken on the vacation.
"There were no signs of depression; everything seemed so normal with them," said Tiwari.
Viswanath had quit his job with Anderson Consulting in mid-April after working with them for just 18 months. According to Anderson Consulting, he left the job on his own to start his own computer business. He told friends he was into Web designing.
Gauri worked as a systems analyst with Southern Company. They had been married for almost 15 years. The Viswanaths were active members of the community and very religious, visiting the temple every week. Gauri sang classical songs and bhajans (devotional songs) and had released two albums. She sang at religious and social gatherings. Viswanath came from Jamshedpur; Gauri, from Calcutta.
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