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Man Held in Store Clerk's Killing

The suspect, convicted of stabbing a clerk during a 1993 robbery, allegedly beat a cashier to death Friday after a rampage at his parents' home.

October 14, 2006|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles police arrested a 32-year-old man for allegedly beating a Chatsworth mini-mart cashier to death with a baseball bat early Friday, 12 years after he was convicted of stabbing another store clerk 25 times.

The suspect's father said Frank E. Kaatz, who has battled depression, alcohol and drugs since his teens, went berserk about 1:45 a.m., smashing windows and furniture at his parents' home before challenging his father, Frank P. Kaatz, to call police so he could draw officers into a deadly confrontation.

"He kept on saying, 'I hate my life, I hate my life, it's going to come to an end,' " the father said in a telephone interview Friday.

Kaatz threatened to get knives from the home in the 10000 block of Oso Avenue before eventually finding a baseball bat.

Then, he told his parents: "I love you, Mom and Dad. You'll never see me alive again."

Detectives believe Kaatz went to the AM/PM mini-market in the 20400 block of Devonshire Street, where he beat the clerk in the head with the bat.

Rohan Rambukwella, a 41-year-old Sri Lankan immigrant and longtime employee of the store, died at the scene.

Police found Kaatz crouching on the roof of a Denny's restaurant down the block from the store, Police Lt. Paul Vernon said.

Kaatz led detectives to a nearby alley, where they found a bloody bat.

In March 1993, Kaatz and three other men robbed a West San Fernando Valley 7-Eleven. Kaatz repeatedly stabbed Amolak Singh Saini, a 26-year-old Indian immigrant who had been working for less than a month at the store in the 22800 block of Saticoy Street.

Saini suffered critical wounds but survived.

The robbers made away with $25 from the cash register.

Kaatz was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in state prison for the crime.

He served seven years before he was granted parole in 2004.

The next year, he was arrested several times on narcotics-related charges, including possession of methamphetamine.

Police said he went back to state prison on a parole violation and was released in July.

The father said Kaatz harbored deep-seated anger and battled depression but he did not receive the help he needed in prison.

During a recent hiking trip through the hills around Rocky Peak, the father urged his son to get help, he said.

His son told him: "I can work it out myself."

Detectives said that Rambukwella had worked the night shift at the market for five years but had no family in the U.S.

Although the victims in the stabbing and Friday's fatal beating were of South Asian descent, police said they did not believe that the attacks constituted hate crimes.

The suspect's father also insisted that his son did not harbor racial or ethnic animosities.

"He admired people who were willing to leave the comfort of their countries, to be able to find a better life here," the father said.

As for why Kaatz may have targeted Rambukwella, "It was random," the father said.

Since his release from prison, Kaatz seemed to be making progress against his demons, but as Friday's incident showed, he couldn't turn the corner, the father said.

"He realized he made a terrible mistake," the elder Kaatz said. "He went out to take his own life and unfortunately a poor soul lost their life. Now his life is gone. He got his wish."


Times staff writers Richard Winton and Megan Garvey contributed to this report.

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