San Francisco: An Indian-origin IT professional, accused of killing four of his family members in a gruesome week-long spree before driving hours to a remote town in California to surrender, along with the body of one of his victims, has appeared before a judge.
Placer County prosecutors, in a four-page complaint filed on Wednesday, charged 53-year-old Shankar Nagappa Hangud with four counts of murder, along with special allegations of committing multiple murders and of committing offences in multiple jurisdictions, The Sacramento Bee newspaper reported.
Hangud, wearing a heavy green safety suit and shackled at the waist, was surrounded by a trio of Placer County sheriff's deputies as he sat behind Plexiglas in the courtroom's holding cell, it said.
According to Wednesday's criminal filing, the first two victims were killed by Hangud, a data specialist, on October 7, prosecutors allege in their complaint. Another family member fell victim the following day, October 8.
Prosecutors allege the fourth death - the body driven to Mount Shasta police - happened on Sunday, October 13, in Siskiyou County, over 350 kilometres away, nearly a week after the first killings and a day before Hangud surrendered.
Hangud turned himself over on Monday to police in Mount Shasta - a four-hour drive north of Roseville - reportedly telling authorities he had a dead body in the car and that they could find the bodies of three others in his Roseville apartment.
There, police found the bodies of an adult and two children, Roseville police said.
Roseville police on Monday transported Hangud back to South Placer jail, where he is being held without bail.
A motive for the slayings remains unclear, and police were calling on the public to help them puzzle out what led to the killings, the report said.
During his court appearance, a somber Hangud told Placer Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Penney, twice, then once again that he did not want an attorney.
"I strongly advise you to have an attorney appointed to represent you," Penney said from the bench. However, Hangud said he did not want an attorney.
Later, Martin Jones, an attorney with the Placer County Public Defender's Office stepped in. After a brief discussion, Hangud agreed to be represented by the public defender, the report said.
Jones immediately asked the judge to postpone Hangud's arraignment to October 25 and accepted from prosecutors the first pages of what is expected to be voluminous discovery in the case.
"He wanted to represent himself. I told him that's not a good idea," Jones told reporters outside Penney's courtroom in Roseville.
Jones did not speculate on Hangud's mental state.
He said the charges against Hangud constitute a capital case. That means that if convicted, Hangud could face the death penalty, even though a moratorium is currently in place in California.
Placer County Deputy District Attorney Dave Tellman told the judge his office had not yet made a decision on whether to seek the death penalty against Hangud.