The Roseville man accused of killing four of his family members in a gruesome week-long spree before driving hours to remote Siskiyou County, corpse in tow, to surrender to police faced a Placer County judge Wednesday on multiple murder counts.
County prosecutors, in a four-page complaint filed Wednesday morning, charged Shankar Nagappa Hangud with four counts of murder, along with special allegations of committing multiple murders and of committing offenses in multiple jurisdictions.
Hangud, wearing a heavy green safety suit and shackled at the waist, was surrounded by a trio of Placer County sheriff’s deputies as he sat behind Plexiglas in the courtroom’s holding cell. A somber Hangud told Placer Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Penney, twice, then once again that he did not want an attorney and would not be seeking one.
“I strongly advise you to have an attorney appointed to represent you,” Penney said from the bench.
“No, your honor. I do not want an attorney,” Hangud answered again before Martin Jones, an attorney with the Placer County Public Defender’s Office stepped in. After a brief discussion, Hangud agreed to be represented by the public defender.
Jones immediately asked Penney to postpone Hangud’s arraignment to Oct. 25 and accepted from prosecutors the first pages of what is expected to be voluminous discovery in the case.
“He wanted to represent himself. I told him that’s not a good idea,” Jones told reporters outside Penney’s courtroom at Placer County’s Santucci Justice Center in Roseville. “We all believe it’s a bad idea considering the potential consequences.”
Asked if Hangud’s reported confession complicates his defense, Jones replied, “Yes, yes it does. Certainly with a confession, it changes our strategy considerably.”
Jones did not speculate on Hangud’s mental state. He hadn’t talked to the accused quadruple murderer other than the brief moments before Penney and likely wouldn’t until Thursday, he told reporters. But asked about Hangud’s safety suit, he said, “I imagine he’s on a (safety) watch because he’s wearing that. It’s fair to say he’s experiencing a great amount of grief and remorse.”
Jones said the charges constitute a capital case. That means that if convicted, Hangud could face the death penalty, even though a moratorium is currently in place under Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Placer County Deputy District Attorney Dave Tellman told the judge his office had not yet made a decision on whether to seek the death penalty against Hangud. In an interview with The Sacramento Bee following the afternoon hearing, Tellman said his office has a death penalty review with capital cases.
“We use the same process in every (capital) case and analyze the evidence and the facts under that criteria,” Tellman said. “Whether the governor has issued a moratorium, that’s not part of our process.”
Roseville police offered few details at a Tuesday news conference saying the slayings may have happened “over a few days’ time span.”
That timeline became clear with Wednesday’s criminal filing. The first two victims were slain Oct. 7, prosecutors allege in their complaint. Another family member fell victim the following day, Oct. 8.
Prosecutors allege the fourth death – the body driven to Mount Shasta police – happened Sunday, Oct. 13, in Siskiyou County nearly a week after the first killings and a day before Hangud turned himself in.
Hangud, a 53-year-old data specialist, turned himself over Monday to police in Mount Shasta – a four-hour drive north of Roseville – reportedly telling authorities he had a dead body in the car and that they could find the bodies of three others in his Roseville apartment.
There, police found the bodies of an adult and two children, Roseville police said.
Roseville police late Monday transported Hangud back to South Placer jail, where he is being held without bail.
A motive for the slayings remains unclear, and police were calling on the public to help them puzzle out what led to the killings.
The crimes stunned Roseville and Placer County. A quadruple homicide hadn’t been committed in Placer County since a family was massacred by ranch hand Arturo Juarez Suarez at their property in 1998. The Auburn man raped a woman and killed her two children, her husband and her brother-in-law, burying their bodies at the ranch. Suarez was condemned to death in 2001.
Now 52, Suarez sits on San Quentin’s death row.