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2 Brothers Are Held in Deaths of 4 Relatives

Fire: One suspect owns motel next to inn of a victim, fatally burned with her son, daughter and mother-in-law at their home.

July 27, 2002|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN and RICHARD WINTON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Two brothers have been arrested on suspicion of murder, bringing to three the number of suspects in custody in the killings of four members of a Hollywood Hills family.

Pravin Govin, 33, whom his employees described as a motel owner, and his brother Victor, 35, were arrested late Thursday night in connection with the deaths of an owner of a neighboring motel, her son, daughter and mother-in-law.

The brothers were being held on four counts of murder in connection with the May 4 deaths at a Lakeridge Drive home, which authorities said was intentionally set on fire, according to Lt. Horace Frank of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Pravin Govin was detained about 10:30 p.m. in South Gate and his brother was taken into custody 45 minutes later in North Hollywood, Frank said.

Another man, Carlos Amador, 26, of Los Angeles, was booked early Thursday on four counts of murder and one count of arson.

On Friday, LAPD detectives declined to reveal a possible motive for the killings of Gita Kumar, 43; her son, Paras, 18; her daughter, Tulsi, 16; and her mother-in law, Sitaben Patel.

"We aren't going to talk about the motive and [the suspects'] relationship to the Kumars until the case is presented to the district attorney's office on Monday," said Lt. Don Hartwell.

Sources familiar with the investigation, however, said the killings stemmed from "a land dispute."

Gita Kumar, along with her husband, Harish "Harry" Kumar, owned several motels, including the Universal City Inn in the 10700 block of Ventura Boulevard. The Studio Place Inn, a motel that employees said--and public records show--is owned by Pravin Govin, sits next to the Kumars' property.

A front desk supervisor at the Studio Place Inn, Kazi Nahid, 34, said "the police took away" his boss and the boss' brother Thursday night. "I can't think they could do something like that," said Nahid, who has worked for Govin for a year, referring to the killings.

Gita Kumar, according to city Planning Department records, filed an application in 2001 for variances that would allow her and her husband to tear down the existing 40-unit Universal City Inn and build a 65-unit, three-story motel with 69 parking spaces.

A hearing for a conditional use permit on the project and other variances was first scheduled for May 10 and then postponed to later this month.

On May 4, Harish Kumar returned home shortly after 11 p.m. to discover his bungalow ablaze. His wife, son, daughter and mother were dead inside.

Fire investigators quickly identified the blaze as arson after finding traces of a flammable liquid in more than one location in the house. The blaze, they said, had begun in two bedrooms.

The bodies were found in one room of the house and were so badly burned that dental records were required to identify them.

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