Unusual elements in state's murder case against a mother and son

Parth Arunkumar Ingle, 22, leaves his arraignment in Delaware County on Dec. 1, 2008.
Parth Arunkumar Ingle, 22, leaves his arraignment in Delaware County on Dec. 1, 2008. (DAVE SCHLOTT / For the Daily News, file)
Posted: February 26, 2012

Right away, investigators knew that whoever killed 55-year-old Arunkumar Ingle had no interest in robbery. They found no signs of a break-in at his modest ranch home in the Glen Riddle section of Middletown Township, Delaware County, no knocked-over furniture, no ransacking, no TVs or jewelry taken.

The only thing deemed missing was a pipe wrench that they believed was used as an assault weapon.

What they did find at the home on the afternoon of Jan. 21, 2008, was evidence of shocking brutality - multiple stab wounds; blood covering the victim's head, which rested atop his knocked-out teeth; his testicles mutilated.

Now, four years later, the victim's wife, Bhavnaben Ingle, 52, and son, Parth Ingle, 25, await trial in what national experts say is a rare - if not unique - murder case that allegedly involves patricide, the killing of a parent, and mariticide, the slaying of a spouse.

Prosecutors allege their motives were financial gain and vengeance. A preliminary hearing - when prosecutors must demonstrate they have enough evidence to bring a case to trial - is scheduled in Delaware County on March 9.

Parents are victims of only 1 percent to 2 percent of all homicides, said Paul Mones, a West Coast attorney who specializes in intra-family crimes. He and other defense attorneys said they knew of few cases involving both patricide and mariticide, and Mones said he could recall none that matched the circumstances of this one.

Typically, he said, at the root of family homicides are abuse and/or mental illness, elements that haven't surfaced in this instance.

What is behind this killing, say prosecutors, is a five-year saga of betrayal, an unraveling marriage, and a deteriorated relationship between a father and child.

Defense attorney John Kusturiss has countered that in almost four years investigators have offered little in the way of new evidence. The case is circumstantial, with no eyewitnesses or weapons recovered.

Evidence of "deep dysfunction" is one thing this case would have in common with others, said Mones. Also familiar is the element of violent "overkill," said New York psychologist Robi Ludwig, a specialist in spousal homicides and author of Till Death Do Us Part: Love, Marriage and the Mind of the Killer Spouse.

But the case is uncommon on other levels.

It involves allegations of high-tech spying; an Internet affair; a victim who is said to have planned to fake his own death and then go live with another woman; and a prosecution attempt to remove the defense counsel, whose son is a potential witness - for the state.

An overarching issue is why it would take four years to charge the defendants with murder.

"That's unusual in any homicide case," said Mones. "That's bordering on a cold case."

State Police have said that assembling the circumstantial evidence wasn't the stuff of television, but a complicated and time-consuming process.

For now, neither the State Police, Kusturiss, nor anyone else involved is talking because Judge Barry D. Dozor has imposed a gag order.

The only recent public comments from Kusturiss, who is a well-known and respected criminal lawyer, came during a hearing in which he bristled at the prosecution's argument that he should be removed from the case because of a potential conflict.

The motion was opposed vigorously by local and national criminal defense attorneys associations.

Such challenges arise only in "a very, very small" percentage of cases, said Theodore Simon, a Philadelphia lawyer who is a vice president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and recently was part of the defense team that freed Amanda Knox from an Italian jail.

He said at stake was the "constitutional right of not only the effective assistance of counsel, but choice of counsel."

The judge ruled in Kusturiss' favor after the defendant himself was brought to the courtroom and insisted that he wanted to retain his counsel. Gordon Kusturiss, the attorney's son, is Parth Ingle's best friend.

It was the second time prosecutors unsuccessfully tried to keep Kusturiss from defending Ingle on similar grounds. He also represented Parth Ingle when he was tried, also in Delaware County, on charges of spying on his father.

He was convicted in October of unlawful computer use and sentenced to probation for installing spyware on his father's computer and GPS tracking devices on his car. He was acquitted on wiretap counts. His sister Avnee was acquitted of all charges.

Such high-tech snooping has increased exponentially, said Sharon Nelson, president of Sensei Enterprises Inc., a computer-forensics company in Fairfax, Va., with the majority of instances involving espionage on a spouse.

According to police affidavits, sometime in 2002 Bhavnaben Ingle began suspecting her husband was having an affair. In late 2004, with his mother's approval, Parth Ingle planted eBlaster spyware on his father's computer.

That mother-son alliance suggests an almost oedipal connection, said Ludwig, the psychologist, and was at the least questionable parental behavior. "No mother who is healthy would put her son in that type of position," she said. "That's an extreme reaction."

(Oedipal refers to the Greek play by Sophocles in which Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother. Later, Sigmund Freud identified the "Oedipus complex," which he asserted was a stage of childhood characterized by jealousy of the father and attraction to the mother.)

Parth Ingle's spying convinced him that the father, a Boeing engineer, was having an affair with a Russian woman he had met on the Internet, according to court records. The father had an elaborate plan to acquire a phony passport, fake his own death, and move to India with the woman, according to the records.

The woman, Anna Sudakevich of Philadelphia, has said she did not learn the victim was married until Parth Ingle showed up at her door and found his father with her in the fall of 2007. The result was a confrontation, according to police records.

In arguing motives, prosecutors contend that along with vengeance, the defendants had financial difficulties and stood to benefit from the victim's $3.6 million in insurance policies.

According to the affidavit, when his father was killed, Parth Ingle owed $29,000 for a car and $8,000 for a motorcycle and had $5,900 in credit-card debt. He was unemployed at the time and lived off money that his mother made working at a 7-Eleven in Delaware owned by her daughter's family.

While the case is circumstantial, that wouldn't preclude conviction, said Temple University Law School professor Eddie Ohlbaum. Circumstantial evidence, he said, can be "equally persuasive, and sometimes even more persuasive than direct evidence."

In their affidavits, police investigators noted that cellphone records did not match accounts of the defendants' whereabouts on the night before the body was found.

For example, Parth Ingle told police that he had picked up his mother between 8 and 8:15 p.m. Jan. 20 and that they had gone to his Pottstown home. Records show that at 11:38 p.m., a call from his phone was made in the area of the family's Middletown home.

Regardless of the outcome of the case, Ludwig said one conclusion is inescapable.

Said Ludwig: "It's so sad."

Contact staff writer Anthony R. Wood at 610-761-8423 or twood@phillynews.com.

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