A quiet West Des Moines, Iowa neighborhood has been rattled after a family of four was discovered shot to death on the morning of June 15. Chandrasekhar “Chandra” Sunkara, 44, wife Lavanya, 41, and their two sons Prabhas, 15, and Suhas,10, were found at their home at 935 65th Street.
The Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation processed the scene and West Des Moines detectives headed up the investigation. Autopsies were conducted and determined that Chandra Sunkara killed his wife and two boys before shooting himself.
A family friend from the Telugu Association of North America who wished to remain anonymous told the Times of India that Chandra had been severely depressed and there may have been a family dispute troubling him.
The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed We Are Iowa that Chandrasekhar Sunkara passed a background check and was issued a gun permit on April 22.
Here’s what you need to know about Lavanya and Chandra Sunkara and their two children.
1. The Bodies Were Discovered by Visiting Relatives
West Des Moines police were called to the Sunkara residence at approximately 10 a.m. by a family member who discovered them. The Sunkaras were hosting four relatives at their home. Their guests were described as two adults and two children. One of the relatives ran outside, found someone who was walking in the neighborhood and had that person call 911.
The family member who flagged down the neighbor was described by the police as a “survivor” however it is unknown if this relative witnessed the murders.
“There’s two male children (audio garbled) with blood on their heads. They’re trying to get further information from the people outside who were yelling for help,” the 911 dispatcher told the police, adding that the parents had locked themselves in the bathroom and that it was the grandparents who were calling for help.
The police emphasized that the community did not seem to be in danger. “This tragedy will impact family, friends, co-workers, anyone that knew this family,” Sergeant Dan Wade with the West Des Moines Police Department told CBS 6, “We are continuing to work through this investigation. We will follow through until we have answered as many questions as the evidence allows.”
Telegu News International is reporting that the bodies will be turned over to the family on June 17.
2.The Sunkaras Had Ties to Andhra Pradesh and Hyderabad
The Times of India is reporting that Chandra and Lavanya Sunkara originally came from Tsundur town in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh’s Gunter District. They also had ties to Hyderabad, India’s sixth largest city. Chandra’s Facebook page shows that he attended Maturi Venkata Subba Rao (MVSR) Engineering College in Hyderabad and graduated in 1996. The couple have lived in the United States at least twenty years.
News of their deaths has been spreading throughout the Indian community both in the U.S. and abroad. “The worst has happened in America. Four members of the Telugu family lost their lives,” read an Instagram post by NewsUnbox. Telugu is an Indian ethnic group. India Today is reporting that the Telugu Association of America is in touch with the Indian Embassy regarding the deaths.
3. Chandra and Lavanya Both Worked as Sofware Developers
Chandra had worked for the Technical Service Bureau division of the Iowa Department of Public Safety for 11 years as a civilian employee. He served the department as an IT professional making a salary of $105,104 per year. In 2010 he was presented with the Governor’s Excellence Award which is the only photo posted on his Facebook.
A friend from Hyderabad commented on Chandra’s dedication. “Remembering how you studied during our student days. Your achievement doesn’t surprise me,” he wrote.
Lavanya’s LinkedIn page shows that she had worked as a software development consultant for Lean TECHniques, Inc. of Johnston, Iowa since December 2017. She was previously employed by Iowa Student Loan, IFMC, Alliance Technologies, and Tata Consultancy Services.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the Sunkaras. Counseling services will be available on Monday for any employee needing assistance,” a June 16 press release from the Department of Public Safety read.
4. The Sons Are Being Mourned by Their Friends
Friends of the family are mourning the deaths of Prabhas and Suhas. Their coach wrote on social media that the two boys were avid basketball players, playing on the Mullets basketball team. One was nicknamed “The Professor” and the other was known as “Champ.”
The brothers were also being remembered by their after-school enrichment program, A Grade Ahead. “We are extremely devastated and shocked about the untimely demise of one of our brightest and beloved students in a tragic incident on Saturday,” their Facebook post read. “Words cannot describe the vacuum this incident had cast on us, and we pray for all the friends and families effected by this unfathomable loss.”
“The family was a very friendly family and so it is really painful,” A Grade Ahead director Shrikar Somayajula told WHO 13. “For someone who we’ve known so close and we’ve seen them come in week after week come in for classes and we’ve seen them as recent as last Wednesday, to learn that they are not there anymore is something that really breaks our heart.”
5. Neighbors Are Shocked by Their Deaths
The Sunkara family had just moved into their home on March 25. The home, located in the Executive Development at Enclave of Ashworth was purchased for $570,000.
Neighbors were shocked when they saw ambulances and crime scene investigators in their typically peaceful West Des Moines neighborhood putting up crime scene tape and re-routing traffic. “They said it was a crime scene. I didn’t know the severity of it until I spoke with neighbors who had been there,” neighbor Karl Wolle told We Are Iowa. “I don’t think it rattles my sense of safety but it’s just very unfortunate.”