The ex-wife of a Monte Sereno man who died during a 2012 home invasion recalled today in Santa Clara County Superior Court how robbers invaded their home, bloodied her, tied up her and her former husband and had her lay next to his motionless body for hours.
Harinder Rani Kumra said that the nighttime ordeal had such an affect on her that she felt scared when she saw a police photo of the man she identified as the one who walked into her dark bedroom, struck her in the lip and threatened to kill her.
“That’s why I don’t want to be here,” Kumra said from the stand, as the jury and several members of her family watched. “Every night when there is a noise, I see him walking. It’s like an imprint in my brain.”
Her court appearance was the first time Harinder Kumra has spoken in public about the Nov. 30, 2012 home invasion robbery of the large Monte Sereno estate she shared with her ex-husband Raveesh “Ravi” Kumra, 66, a wealthy one-time owner of a Saratoga winery.
Ravi Kumra choked to death that early morning after the robbery suspects gagged him by duct tape, beat and bound his ex-wife beside him in the kitchen and left with jewelry, coins and tens of thousands in cash and other valuables from his home.
Deputy District Attorney Kevin Smith called her as a witness today in his case against defendant Marcellous Drummer, being tried on murder and robbery charges with gang enhancements in the home invasion.
His alleged cohorts in the crimes, DeAngelo Austin and Javier Garcia, are charged with the same crimes but will be tried in a separate future trial.
Another former co-defendant in the murder-robbery, Katrina Fritz, a former prostitute who worked with Ravi Kumra for years, has agreed to testify for the prosecution against the three defendants in exchange for the dismissal of the murder charge and a sentence of up to 17 years.
Harinder Kumra, while being questioned today by Smith, said she and Ravi were married in 1974, had two daughters and lived in the Monte Sereno house on Withey Road for 20 years, aside from a short period of separation when the couple divorced in 2010. Raveesh returned home in 2011, she said.
The Kumras, who lived in separate bedrooms, had a security alarm system at their property but it was not activated at the time of the robbery because they considered home “very safe” and Ravi even “kept the door open,” she said.
On the night leading up to the home invasion on Nov. 29, she recalled cooking Indian vegetarian food and convinced Ravi to leave his home office for the kitchen to eat the food, she said.
She washed the dishes, walked to her bedroom, got into bed, not recalling if she locked the bedroom door as she usually did, and turned off her lights.
She remembered she later awoke to a noise from her door, which opened and at first she thought the person coming in was her husband but could see that it was a more slender man approaching.
“And I said, who are you, who are you, and then he walked across to the foot of my bed and then climbed on top of the bed and was standing there,” she said.
“I started screaming, I said, Ravi, Ravi, Ravi help me,” she testified.
An emotional Harinder broke down and sobbed briefly when Smith asked her what happened after that.
“There was screaming and he hit me,” she said. “But I saw his face because he had an iPhone with him and the lights from the iPhone would reflect on his face.”
“I think he looked like a Mexican,” she said. “And he was about 5-10 or 9, slim…and clean shaven.”
The witness said she does not know what the suspect used to strike her in her face, but her “lip split and I started bleeding.”
“He said, you are screaming, that’s why he hit me,” she said. “He said walk out, I’ll take you to Ravi, and keep walking,” then added “just go on or otherwise we’ll kill you.”
The assailant’s familiarity with her ex-husband made her wonder at the time if he “knows Ravi or had been to the house,” she said.
The suspect brought her out of her bedroom and “marched me into the kitchen,” she said. “I just walked because I knew that he was very cruel.”
Harinder again became emotional and hesitated before describing the scene where Ravi was downstairs in the darkness of the kitchen.
“I saw the back of Ravi, he was standing up wearing a white t-shirt,” she said. “And his hands were tied in the back. I couldn’t see if there were any other people there, but then I saw the first shadow…like somebody must be there.”
She could see Ravi struggling while trying to pull his hands out of the binding, and she told the suspects “don’t push him, he’s a heart patient, he will die, and he has a breathing problem.”
Ravi “was asking for help” with his hands tied. He was then pushed to the ground, face down, by the suspects, and he asked, “if somebody can open” his bound hands, Harinder Kumra said.
One suspect then bound and blindfolded her with tape while another suspect, whom she believed was one who hit and threatened to kill her, instructed him to be careful placing tape on her mouth because of her bleeding lip.
They tied her legs with a blanket and had her lay face up, she, while “the blood was dripping inside me, all over,” she said.
She tried to reach for her former spouse but could not, and a suspect said, “Hey, woman, where is the money and where is the safe.”
The couple had a safe in the kitchen pantry but she did not know the code to open it and she informed them, talking through the tape, that there was cash under a desk by her bedroom. They eventually took from $20,000 to $30,000 in currency, she said.
“I told them take the money, leave us alone,” she said.
The suspects pulled several 22-carat gold bracelets she was wearing from her wrists.
She said she remained on the floor “for several hours in the same position” because “I was too scared to move.”
Ravi, however, was no longer moving and Harinder, fearing Ravi was dead, said she asked the suspect sitting next to her, the one she believed had hit her, to check on him,
The suspect replied, “No, no, no, he’s okay,” then moved away for a moment, returned and told her, “You know what, don’t worry, we’ll call 911.”
One of the intruders said “Don’t get up. If you do it won’t be good,” then left the victims behind for some time. After they came back, one said, “Don’t get up until we come back and tell you to get up,” she testified.
At one point she thought it was safe enough to get up and through still tightly bound, called 911 on a phone that was hidden under ransacked paperwork and told the operator that Ravi might be dead.
When police arrived and grabbed her while she was still blindfolded, she at first thought they were the robbers. She had to wait until medical personnel got there before the tape could be removed, she said.
Upon returning to her home, the rooms, closets and furniture of the home were ransacked and it took her months to put things back in order and find out what was missing to report to Los Gatos police.
The thieves had taken the large amount of cash, meant for her daughter’s wedding, jewelry and even a tall container of pennies and quarters saved by her daughters when they were small, she said.
Later, Los Gatos police returned $5,000 in cash found in Ravi’s travel bag, she said.
Also today, Drummer’s defense counsel James Blackman cross-examined Fritz, who had a 12-year relationship of providing sexual services to Ravi Kumra, mainly while at Kumra’s Monte Sereno home and a hotel in nearby Los Gatos.
Fritz was arrested in the Kumra murder case in February 2013, less than two months after Austin, who is her brother, and Garcia were arrested. Drummer was arrested earlier this year based on information provided by Fritz to law enforcement.
Blackman, seeking to discredit Fritz as a key witness for the prosecution in the murder-robbery case against Drummer, got her to admit before the jury to the many times she lied to authorities after her arrest about the information she provided to Austin so that he could plan of the robbery of Ravi’s home.
Fritz, who in her testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday said that Drummer was a participant in the robbery that led to the murder, also admitted that she lied to avoid being prosecuted and only agreed to become a prosecution witness when she could see that the case against her was strong and she could face a sentence of death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Blackman’s cross-examination of Fritz continued this afternoon after Harinder Kumra left the stand. Blackman said he would consider recalling Kumra as a defense witness.
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