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BU grad student slain in Allston in April had been mugged nearby two weeks earlier

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  July 19, 2012 04:48 PM

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(Yoon S. Byun / Globe Staff file)

During a vigil on Boston University's campus in late April, powder was placed, as a sign of respect for the departed, on a portrait of slain graduate student Kanagala Seshadri Rao.

The Boston University graduate student killed by an unknown assailant or assailants three months ago had been mugged in an Allston park two weeks earlier, according to a police report and e-mails between the slain man's father in India and another student also mugged that night.

Kanagala Seshadri Rao, 24, and his classmate told police that they were mugged by several young men in Ringer Park, near Rao’s Allston apartment on April 5. The robbers took money and a laptop computer, they said.

Two weeks later, Rao was found shot to death steps from the park and about 500 feet from his residence. Authorities have made no arrests or disclosed a possible motive in the slaying, which stirred fear in the neighborhood popular with students from several area colleges.

Rao's father, Kanagala Sudhakar Rao, said his son's wallet was on him and “intact” when his body was discovered by authorities.

Rao was found along the 100 block of Allston St. with multiple gunshot wounds, including to the head and leg, at about 2:40 a.m. on April 19, three months ago Thursday.

Minutes before the shooting, at about 2:17 a.m., Rao had texted the classmate who was with him during the earlier robbery to say he was about to leave to visit her to help fix a mistake he had spotted in her school assignment, according to the e-mails between Rao's father and the classmate, which were provided to the Globe by the father.

He needed to visit the classmate in person so she could borrow his laptop, the e-mails said. Her laptop was the one stolen in the prior robbery.

The walk should have taken roughly 10 minutes. Rao never made it.

The April 5 robbery happened sometime after 11 p.m., according to the e-mails.

According to a copy of the police report, Rao and the classmate told officers that they were sitting near the park’s tennis court area and talking when six white men, described as being between 20 and 24 years old and wearing black and gray hoodies, approached and asked them for money and their cell phones.

The classmate gave the men two $5 bills and her laptop from her backpack, the report said. Rao refused to give them anything and the men began punching and kicking him.

He ran toward Allston Street, according to the report. The men chased Rao, grabbed his coat and, when they realized police were on their way, ran toward the Jackson Mann K-8 School.

Rao suffered bruises and minor cuts to his face and hands but declined medical treatment, the police report said.

Rao’s father, who is in his mid-50s and is a regional bank manager in the Indian state of Orissa, said in e-mails that he and other family members were shocked and devastated. He said he is becoming increasingly frustrated and hopeless about getting answers about his son's killing as he waits some 7,000 miles away.

Some who live near where the shooting occurred have also expressed concern over the shooting.

Aaron Held, 22, said he lives about 100 feet from where Rao’s body was found. Held said he and his roommates told officers they had not heard or seen anything.

“It’s eerie. Such a strange incident,” said Held.

He has lived in the area for several years studying at Boston University and now works at the school’s medical campus in the South End.

“I still feel fairly safe around Allston,” he added. “But, I’ve definitely kept more of an eye out since it happened.”

Rao’s father said his son was living with three other roommates in an Allston apartment.

The landlord who owns the apartment Rao was living in said that the roommates did not know each other well and did not hang out much, if at all, as friends. One of the roommates has told the Globe previously he was not close with Rao.

The landlord, who asked her name not be published, said she has lived in the neighborhood for the past two decades and remains shocked.

“No one can figure out why this happened,” she said. “I didn’t lock my doors before, but now I do.”

Rao grew up in Jeypore, a village in Orissa, and moved to Boston last fall to enroll in a highly selective, 17-month master’s program in mathematical finance at BU's management school.

He has been described as an intelligent, hard-working student and a kind young man who quickly made friends.

The father has said his son had been set to begin an internship at Fidelity in May and planned to return to India next year after earning his degree.

In late April, Rao’s body was transported to India for last rites services as vigil and memorial services were held at BU’s campus.

The Globe reported in recent months that Boston Police planned to bolster homicide squads this year as well as examine the way it investigates killings, which are typically solved at a slow rate.

Anyone with information in Rao's killing is asked to call detectives at (617) 343-4470. Those who wish to assist anonymously can contact the CrimeStoppers Tip Line at (800)494-TIPS or text the word ‘TIP’ to CRIME (27463).

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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