Father charged with three deaths in Chicago
A man set a fire last weekend that killed his pregnant daughter, his son-in-law and his 3-year-old grandson, prosecutors said, because he...
The New York Times
CHICAGO — A man set a fire last weekend that killed his pregnant daughter, his son-in-law and his 3-year-old grandson, prosecutors said, because he disapproved of his daughter's marriage.
The man, Subhash Chander, who lives in Oak Forest, a Chicago suburb, told investigators he was upset with his daughter, Monika Rani, and her husband, Rajesh Kumar, for what he saw as "a cultural slight," said Robert Milan, the first assistant state's attorney of Cook County.
Chander, an immigrant from India, said the couple had married without his consent and that Kumar was from a lower caste in India than Rani's family, Milan said.
"His son-in-law was beneath him, in his opinion," Milan said Chander told him.
Chander, 57, was held without bail Wednesday, charged with three counts of first-degree murder, aggravated arson and intentional homicide of an unborn child.
Rani, 22, was five months pregnant with the couple's second child.
A defense lawyer assigned to Chander's case did not respond to a telephone message.
While some relatives disputed a connection, the deaths served as a reminder that the caste system — a rigid set of social strata in which status is determined by birth, with the Brahmins being the highest caste — is still honored by people from India more than 60 years after it was outlawed.
Authorities said they did not know when the family came to the United States or which castes husband and wife belonged to.
On Saturday night, firefighters were called to the blaze at an apartment complex that had more than 70 people inside. People raced down stairs or jumped from balcony windows. Remarkably, the authorities said, most escaped without serious injuries.
The authorities said the fire started outside the door of Apartment 209, where Rani, Kumar, 36, and their son, Vansh Kumar, 3, lived.
A witness told the police that just after the fire started he saw a man matching Chander's description in the hallway smelling of gasoline and carrying a plastic container.
An attendant at a gas station told the police that Chander had bought a plastic container of gasoline at his station two hours before the fire.
Not long after the fire, the police found the container in the garbage bin outside Chander's apartment building, just across the street from his daughter's building.
Chander acknowledged setting the fire, the authorities said, but said it had started during an unexpected confrontation with his son-in-law.
Prosecutors said they doubt there was a fight. They said the victims may have been asleep, noting that everyone else in the apartment building escaped.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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