Dad fights for $1M life insurance claim after NJ mom, son slaughtered
MAPLE SHADE — More than two years after a 38-year-old woman and her 6-year-old son were found stabbed to death in a pool of blood in their township apartment, investigators have not identified the killer or made an arrest.
In the meantime, lawyers are in federal court duking it out over more than $1 million in life insurance that the husband and father of the victims has been trying to cash out.
Sasikala Narra and her son Anish were found slaughtered in the evening of March 23, 2017. Police were called by Narra’s husband, Hanumantha Rao Narra, who said he found the bodies of his wife and child in their bedroom.
The case has remained an unsolved mystery, with the FBI offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
But while authorities have not named any suspects, they also haven’t ruled out the surviving Narra as a suspect, either.
The lack of an arrest and the insistence by the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office that Narra has not been cleared has stymied Narra's effort to collect on his family’s seven-figure insurance policies.
Like most prosecutors in the state, officials in Burlington have declined to either comment on the pending investigation or name potential suspects until criminal charges are formally filed. But a federal lawsuit filed by Prudential is shedding new details on the case.
The insurance company in October filed the action in U.S. District Court to have the court take possession of the $1 million until the court can determine who should inherit the fortune. New Jersey 101.5 is reporting on the contents of the litigation for the first time.
At issue is the state law known as the “slayer” statute, which prevents any person responsible for a homicide from collecting insurance proceeds or inheritance from their victims.
Narra’s attorneys have argued that the insurance company’s interpretation of the law might lead to a legal paradox in which their client may never be able to collect the money unless a suspect is ever charged.
A federal judge in March, however, sided with Prudential and ordered the more than $1,031,692 from the two policies to be deposited with the court. U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy Waldor also appointed the dead woman’s parents to represent the interests of the estate.
'No parties can be conclusively eliminated'
According to the complaint, Prudential reached out to prosecutors after Narra filed a claim on the life insurance policies 46 days after the double homicide.
In a May 21, 2017 response to the insurance company, Assistant Prosecutor Robert Van Gilst stated that “the death of Sasikala Narra is an open criminal investigation therefore no parties can be conclusively eliminated at this time.”
The parents of the dead woman, meanwhile, have filed their own complaint in the matter, stating in a January 2019 filing that their son-in-law is fraudulently trying to obtain the death benefits and that he should be barred from doing so because the investigation “may show” that he “willfully and wantonly attacked” his wife and child.
The slain woman’s family in India have voiced unsubstantiated suspicions in their local media about Narra’s possible involvement in the killings. The dead woman’s family shared what they said was a letter she wrote to them detailing her husband’s affair with another woman.
Narra’s lawyers argued in court that he “provided convincing alibi evidence to law enforcement for the time of the slaying showing definitively that he was elsewhere.”
'I just came from office'
During the 911 call placed by Narra on the night the bodies were discovered, he repeats at least a half dozen times that he had “just come from the office.”
Between his moaning and the screams of a woman that he identifies in the call as one of his neighbors, he tells the 911 dispatcher that he does not know what happened to his family.
“I’m so scared I don’t even want to look there,” he said.
“There’s blood everywhere,” the woman says. “Where the freak is the cops?”
During the call, the neighbor asks Narra who else has a key to his home.
“I just opened the door,” he said
“Was it open?” she asks.
“I don’t know.”
According to The Times of India, Narra told a reporter that he dropped off his son at school about 8 a.m. and dropped his wife at her office at 9:15 a.m. He returned home about 9 p.m.
According to investigators, the mother and son were last seen alive about 7 p.m. when Sasikala picked up Anish at school.
The mother and son had $500,000 life insurance policies issued for each of them in 2015.
According to the insurance applications, which are included as exhibits in the lawsuit, Sasikala Narra, a native of India who was a permanent legal resident of the United States, worked at Cognizant Technologies as a senior associate system analyst. At the time, she earned a salary of $94,000 and had a net worth of $750,000.
Her life insurance policy was to be paid out to her husband and children in equal shares.
When Narra filed the claim in May 2017, he had moved to Piscataway. He is now living in Colorado.
Prudential told the court that the company is “ready and willing to pay the Death Benefit to the person entitled to it, but Pruco is unable to make that determination without exposing itself to double or multiple liability on account of the potential competing claims.”
Narra's attorney, Jack Venturi, rejected this argument.
“It is a far different thing to say that someone is named a suspect of a crime than it is to say that the person has not been eliminated as a suspect,” Venturi, a criminal defense attorney based in New Brunswick, argued in a filing in the case. “Counsel is not being flippant, but instead is being completely serious, when he says that Narra may never be ‘conclusively eliminated’ as a suspect until and unless someone else is found, charged and convicted of the homicides.”
Because there is no statute of limitation for murder or manslaughter charges, Narra may never receive the “the money justly owed to him even if he is never charged," Venturi said. "Such an unfair and unjust result cannot be allowed.”
Judge Waldor in March said that she was not taking sides by having the money deposited in a neutral account and appointing a representative for the estate until the legal arguments on the slayer statute are settled.
Erin Vogt contributed to this report.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.