Iowa family of four died in murder-suicide, police say

A state public safety worker killed himself after his wife and their two sons, described as star students, were shot to death, police said.
IMAGE: West Des Moines, Iowa, shooting scene
Investigators outside the home in West Des Moines, Iowa, where a family of four was found dead of gunshot wounds June 15, 2019.WHO

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By Alex Johnson

Authorities said Monday that an Iowa Department of Public Safety employee, his wife and their two sons who were found dead in their home over the weekend were the victims of a murder-suicide.

After the bodies of Chandrasekhar Sunkara, 44, Lavanya Sunkara, 41, a 15-year-old boy and a 10-year-old boy were found in their home in West Des Moines on Saturday morning, police said they were confident that there was no threat to the community, but they didn't say why.

On Monday, police said autopsies indicated that the boys and their mother were homicide victims and that Chandrasekhar Sunkara died by suicide. Authorities gave no further details.

Police said Sunday that other family members, two adults and two children, were staying in the home as guests. When the bodies were discovered, one of the relatives, whom police described as a "survivor," ran outside looking for help and found a passerby, who called 911.

The Department of Public Safety said Sunday that Chandrasekhar Sunkara, who was known as Chandra, was a civilian information technology professional in the agency's Technology Services Bureau.

Shrikar Somayajula, a co-owner of and partner in A Grade Ahead, an after-school enrichment academy in Des Moines, said the boys, whose names haven't been released because they were juveniles, were star students who represented the school in national scholastic competitions and "wanted to go to one of the elite Ivy League colleges."

The boys were "really bright children, really heads down," Somayajula told NBC affiliate WHO of Des Moines, adding, "The family was a very friendly family, so it's really painful."