Nearly nine months after Devarajan Kalathat killed five family members before turning the gun on himself at their townhouse in Santa Clara, California, Aabha Appu is clueless about the reason behind her husband's murder spree.
The local police and Indian American community are still in the dark about what made Kalathat gun down his entire family on the night of March 29, 2009.
Investigations have revealed that Kalathat had planned the attack. He had sent checks for $500,000 to his siblings in Kerala five days before the incident. Aabha now plans to initiate legal action to get the money back.
He had also purchased two guns weeks before. Kalathat had used both in the killing of his children, Akhil Dev, 11, Neha, 4, Aabha's brother Ashok Appu Poothamkandi, 35, his wife Suchithra Sivaraman, and their 11-month-old child Ahana at his Santa Clara residence, where they had moved four days earlier from Sunnyvale.
After being shot six times by her husband, Aabha ran outside and collapsed near the house of her neighbour Cheryl Abbate. Abbate tended to Abha and implored the grievously injured woman to stay with her till help arrived.
On Christmas Eve, Aabha met Abbate, whom she termed as the 'angel' who came to help her that day.
According to a report in Mercury News, Aabha did not know Abbate well as they had only been neighbours for a few days, but remembers her face.
Aabha, who now lives in nearby Cupertino with her mother Devaki, called Mercury News to help contact Abbate. She was scared about going back to her old house or her neighbour's residence.
Until she was contacted by Mercury News, Abbate too had been uncertain about meeting Aabha. "Is she even grateful to be alive? I keep wondering if I did a good thing," Abbate was quoted as saying in the report.
"Time is healing the wounds. But that night, the door was still hanging open, and I didn't realise her husband had killed himself. I thought he might be coming out," she said.
The meeting between the two women was emotional. Abbate came with bouquet of flowers and Reverend Ryan Wright, a police chaplain.
"All my family members are so grateful to you, Cheryl," Aabha said.
Abbate, 40, is an office manager and mother of two children. She still remembers the day when Devarajan and Aabha moved into the townhouse, started unpacking their stuff and greeted Abbate. Four days later, they met again, when the bleeding Aabha came to her doorstep for help.
Aabha still remembers the woman telling her to 'hold on, honey, hold on'. At first, Abbate thought Aabha had simply fallen.
Aabha remembers nothing unusual about that night, when her brother and sister-in-law and their 11-month-old daughter came over for dinner. They had finished dinner when Devarajan went upstairs. He returned brandishing two .45-caliber handguns.
"I just remember his face. He had no emotion. Like a robot. I kept thinking, no one knows where I'm living now. How can I reach my parents and tell them," recalls Abha.
She spent 15 days in a coma. She has had to undergo four surgeries. A fifth surgery is planned to repair her intestinal organs. Her hand still tingles and aches nonstop.
During Kalathat's autopsy, medical examiners discovered a benign tumor at the base of his skull, which wasn't necessarily fatal but could cause headaches, the report said.
Aabha, who didn't know about the tumor, wonders if that could have been the trigger that set off the bloodbath. "He was a perfectionist. If he had a hair out of place, he got very, very worried. If he got sick, he'd get very concerned, like he was going to die," she said.
Though her family wanted her to move back to India, Aabha refused. She said she cannot bear to return and face the questions. Instead, she moved to Cupertino.
Aabha presented Abbate with a bag of chocolates, a note and a gold heart pendant with diamonds. "Without you, I wouldn't have survived," she told her.
Reverend Wright told her that this was not God's plan. Wright volunteers with Santa Clara police as a chaplain and ended up counseling officers as well as Abbate the night of the shootings.
"God would tell you, I'm so sorry. But he'd tell you you're not abandoned, either. There is still good for you. There's no place so bad that God can't redeem it. I hope that you find that healing," he told Aabha.