“Yes, my family is still hopeful of inding justice and closure as omeone will provide information to reignite a full-blown, active investigation,” Jayakumar Angara said last week
about his wife Geetha Angara’s murder 10
“This case should not be a mystery any
longer and needs to be resolved,”
Dr Geetha Angara, a senior chemist with
the Passaic Valley Water Commission in
Then Passaic County prosecutor James
Avigliano determined it as a homicide, as
did the medical examiner.
Months after the incident, John F
Latoracca, then chief assistant prosecutor
who dealt with homicides and major
crimes at the prosecutor’s office, told India
Abroad, “We are at a dead end. Without
some additional developments we cannot
go any further. We have no doubt that Dr
Angara was murdered. But we have not
sufficient evidence to arrest or charge any-
body with the crime. All our efforts have
pretty much exhausted.”
The situation remains the same a decade
“The investigative team always held
some doubts as to whether Ms Angara’s
death was a homicide. That includes me,”
said Latoracca, now a criminal defense
attorney in Rutherford, New Jersey, last
week. “But since five medical examiners
felt that the forensic evidence pointed that
way, I wasn’t willing to substitute my judg-
ment for theirs. Whether it was a homi-
cide or an accident, someone who was
employed at the plant is responsible for
her death. I doubt that that person will
ever be identified and/or charged unless
someone comes forward with the informa-
tion necessary to do so.”
Investigators had questioned all the 85
employees who worked at the plant in
Totowa. There were no unauthorized per-
sons at the water tank complex that day.
All 50 employees who were present when
she died voluntarily provided DNA samples.
Jayakumar, a banker, has found help
from the extended family to bring up his
three children. Eldest daughter Pavithra
was 19 when her mother died at age 43.
Now a state deputy attorney general in the
division of law, Pavitha Angara said it
makes sense for investigators to revisit the
case. The other Angara children are in college.
The family wants the state and county
officials to keep the investigation active.
“Some of them may recall and provide
information, hitherto were afraid to provide any details/knowledge of events for
their own security/or job threat, now probably, retired or no longer under threat,
may provide some information or details
hopefully may crack this case wide open,”
Dr Angara, a 12-year veteran with the
commission, was last seen between 10 am
and noon, when she left her laboratory to
calibrate instruments and test water quality at another location in the complex. She
worked alone as usual. The water sample
was taken from hoses located on a wall
and not directly from tanks, which are
covered by grates weighing more than 50
Dr Angara’s car was found at the plant.
All other employees had left.
When the police arrived, they found her
purse, cell phone and coat at the treatment
plant, along with a broken beaker. Her
body was found when authorities drained
the water from the tank.
Her two-way radio, clipboard and a broken beaker were found in the tank directly
below the steel grate. The body was found
about 100 feet away.
The grate was set firmly into the tank. It
would have been difficult for the 5 feet 5
inches tall Angara, who weighed 175
pounds, to lift it, investigators had noted.
The grate had no handle, and a tool would
be necessary to lift it.
Investigators believed only a man could
lift the grate and push Angara into the
Angara was alive when forced into the
tank, according to Avigliano.
‘Her killer surprised her, and an autopsy
showed that she had been subdued,’ he
was quoted as saying.
Suicide or accidental death was ruled
out immediately because the grate was
removed and then almost reattached.
Pavithra Angara, who declined to talk to
India Abroad, told the Star Ledger, ‘How
do you get new information if you don’t
ask questions? Maybe once in a while you
need to shake something to see what falls
out. Things have changed at the plant over
the years. Maybe someone who was scared
to talk before is willing to talk now. I think
it would be your due diligence to continue
Dr Geetha Angara’s job was to ensure
the water was clean and safe at the com-
mission, an enormous industrial complex
that provides drinking water to more than
800,000 people in 17 northern New Jersey
In 2004, she was promoted as senior
chemist, charged with overseeing the
plant’s transformation into an ozone disinfection system rather than the h chlorine
She had told her husband that some colleagues were resentful of her promotion
and disagreed with the decision to switch
to the ozone cleansing process.
A year later, the retired lead investigator,
Lt James Wood, told Star-Ledger he had
come to believe Angara’s death was an
New Jersey State Senator Joe Kyrillos
was quoted as saying that he will ask the
state Attorney General’s Office to take up
the case again.
New Jersey Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula at a vigil held for Dr Geetha Angara by her family in 2008.
New Jersey: 10 years on,
Geetha Angara’s murder
wound to the head in a Carbondale Police dispatcher’s
home in March 2012, also attended Pravin’s memorial
Before the memorial there was a press conference, led
by attorney Charles Stegemeyer, who represents the families of both Pravin and Young, a private investigator group
called Archangels of Justice, and Marion radio host
They asked the state’s attorney Michael Carr to release
the report on Pravin’s death. They also suggested the governor should order a new investigation.
In a statement, Carr said he would not be available for
comments about the case after the press conference. The
statement said he has been working on the case tirelessly
and conveyed his condolences to the family.
“It took one year for him to release a seven-sentence
statement,” Lovely Varughese said. She said Carr has told
Stegemeyer that he will release the report soon.
The Archangels of Justice, formed by former police officers Salvatore E Rastrelli and Ira B Robins to fight
untruthful behavior of the police, says it has investigated
Pravin’s death and pinpointed those responsible.
An autopsy commissioned by Pravim’s family found he
died of blunt force trauma. There were no traces of alcohol or drugs in his system.
Lovely Varughese has filed a civil suit against Gaege
Bethune, who was the last person to see Pravin alive, the
City of Carbondale, and former police chief Jodi
O’Guinn demanding compensation in excess of $1 million from each.
The family has added Jackson County Coroner Dr
Thomas Kupferer as another defendant in the case.
Another memorial service was held in Morton Grove,
Chicago, Pravin’s hometown, February 15, which was
attended by hundreds of people at the Mar Thoma
Church in Des Plaines, Illinois.
People voiced concerns that no proper investigation
was conducted into the death despite some evidence of
Pravin’s sisters Priya and Preethi remembered a fun-lov-ing brother. Pravin’s cousins Sumith Tony and Gigi also
shared their memories.
Attendees included former Illinois Lieutenant Governor
Memorials held for Pravin Varughese, whose family still awaits justice
Sheila Simon, Congressman Danny Davis, Illinois State
The officials, guests and the audience gave Lovely
Varughese a standing ovation.