Monte Sereno Homicide Reveals Victim a "Colorful Character"

Ravi Kumra was a controversial character

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    The first murder in Los Gatos in 40 years has rocked the small South Bay city. Attorney Richard Hamlin believes Ravi Jumra was killed protecting his family. Cheryl Hurd reports. (Published Tuesday, Dec 18, 2012)

    Questions still swirled on Monday stemming from Monte Sereno's first homicide in 40 years - three days after a 66-year-old multimillionaire was found dead and his wife was tied up in their massive, gated complex during what was reported as a deadly home invasion.

    Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Sgt. Steve Walpole did not have many details regarding the shocking homicide of venture capitalist Raveesh "Ravi" Kumar Kumra, who was found mysteriously killed on the floor of his Withey Avenue home Friday about 1:30 a.m.

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    Family members tell George Kiriyama that the man who was killed during a home invasion robbery in the Los Gatos hills was the former owner of the Mountain Winery. (Published Friday, Nov 30, 2012)

    He did say that after investigating the crime scene,  "it was not apparent" just how Kumra died, adding that investigators were waiting for results from the Santa Clara County medical examiner's office to get the conclusive results.

    His ex- wife, Harinder "Rani" Kumra had been tied up in the home but was able to escape the intruders - who may number up to four - without much injury. On Saturday, police released a sketch of one suspect: A skinny Latino or white man, in his early 20s and standing about six feet tall, with black hair and a light complexion.

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    A scene from a horror movie appears to have played out overnight in the tiny town of Monte Sereno. Police were called by a woman who said her home had been ransacked. When officers arrived the found the woman's husband dead. Damian Trujillo reports. (Published Friday, Nov 30, 2012)

    The homicide is so unusual, the story has made it way to England, where the Daily Mail had a piece about the strange death.

    Closer to home, private investigator Cody Salfen of San Francisco has been intensely blogging about the case, raising questions about this rare and violent homicide in an affluent city that hasn't seen a murder since 1972.

    Home invasions by random intruders are extremely uncommon, Salfen said, and that the seemingly wide range of between "one to four" intruders by strangers is yet another unusual piece of the puzzle. Salfen is not formally connected to the case, but has worked on several high-profile Los Gatos-area crimes.

    There are many pieces to this puzzle, including the personal background of the couple involved.

    Police first said Ravi and Rani Kumra were married, but court records, along with a family statement indicate the two were divorced. The family, by email over the weekend, said the divorce in 2010 was amicable and "during the time of his death were reconciling their relationship."

    According to family, Harinder has been through "severe trauma."

    The Kumra family declined again on Monday to speak publicly about Kumra who started his fortune in the cellular phone company business.

    But Kumra's brother, Bharat Kumra, issued a statement about Ravi Kumra's life describing a man who "worked very hard and invested successfully over the years." He stated that his brother's wealth has been "overstated and inaccurate." Kumra had once owned the Mountain Winery in the 1990s and had invested in Tesla Capital.

    "While he experienced success during his life, at the time of Ravi's passing he was weathering financial hardship," his brother wrote. "He was a generous man and went out of his way to help anyone he met, even when he had little."
     
    Not everyone felt that way.

    Kumra had a minor criminal past in Santa Clara County - he had a handful of misdemeanors and one felony all charged in the 1990s, court records indicate. He was arrested in connection with a felony DUI in 1995, along with a misdemeanor charge of assaulting a security guard at the Mountain Winery and making a threatening phone call to the then-executive director of the Villa Montalvo, an arts foundation, both in 1998. Those cases are in storage and the details aren't immediately available.

    But in a 1998 article by Metro Active, Kumra, who was CEO of Western Cellular Management at the time, pleaded no contest to two counts of disturbing the peace and was ordered to stay away from the winery on concert days and keep taking his prescribed psychiatric medications. In a 1998 article in the Saratoga News, Kumra was on probation at the time for a number of traffic violations and the aforementioned felony drunk driving hit-and-run accident.

    Well-known San Jose criminal defense attorney, Sam Polverino, who had represented Kumra in the 1990s, said Kumra "always struck me as a good and decent person. He had his strengths and he had his frailties, as any human."

    Kumra was also involved in several civil suits, both as plaintiff and defendant, over the years.

    Attorney Marc Shea, of San Jose, had helped Kumra with one of his many civil suits, calling him a "colorful man," who was "bright and engaging." Mohinder Mann, who also represented Kumra in a suit, said "he was a very nice man" who started his fortune in the 1980s in the cell phone industry.

    According to the family obituary, Kumra was born in Kartharpur, India and emigrated to the United States in 1970 after earning a degree in chemical engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. He eventually settled in the Bay Area, and his family said he was one of the first Indian-born entrepreneurs in the wireless industry.

    His family said "he was one of the quietest angel investors in Silicon Valley," and never turned down a request for help and ever-generous to his friends in need. He was also a man, his family said, who wrote 2,000-word emails, and loved politics, parties and music.

    "He would get so carried away by his favorite songs that he couldn’t help but play them on the keyboard," his family wrote. "Fortunately for everyone, he possessed perfect pitch."

    One of Kumra's past civil attorneys also noted that his former client would not have liked anyone to barge into his 7,000-square-foot villa.

    "I could see Ravi feeling the need to defend his house or Rani, his wife," Los Angeles-based attorney Richard Hamlin said. "He tended to be very quick in this way. I could see him getting mad and standing up to the people breaking into his home."

    Kumra is survived by his wife Rani, whom he married in 1974; his daughters, Raina and Anisha; his brothers Bharat Kumra and Rajesh Kumra; his sister Renu Duggal, and his father Ram Kishan Kumra. In lieu of flowers, the Kumra family will send these funds to charities working with families of homicide victims. You may donate to this website.

    Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact Sgt. Mike D'Antonio of the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department at 408-827-3219. Contact police communications at 408-354-6843 during non-business hours.

    Contact Lisa Fernandez at 408-432-4758 or lisa.fernandez@nbcuni.com.

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