Shock and disbelief gave way to intense grief as the families of the two Indian students from Andhra Pradesh grappled with the news of their murder in Louisiana University in the US.
The families of Allam Kiran Kumar and Komma Chandrasekhara Reddy, both Ph D students hailing from Kadpa and Karimnagar districts respectively, were in deep mourning after they received the shocking news late on Friday.
Allam Rajaiah, a noted writer of Telangana region, has not been able to get over the shock of the news of his son Kiran Kumar's murder. The family members were crying inconsolably at their house in Gajulapalli village in Karimnagar district, about 200 km from here.
"I can't believe that he is no more. He spoke to me only a few hours ago," said Rajaiah, whose eldest of four sons had gone to the US in 2003 for higher education. He spoke to his wife Shoba Rani, another son and other relatives staying in the US to confirm the news.
Rajaiah is leaving for Louisiana to bring back the body. Kiran Kumar's relatives recall that he was of friendly nature and had no enemies. "Why should somebody kill a person like him who was friendly towards all," asked his uncle Allam Narayan.
Kiran Kumar, 33, who was studying for doctorate in chemistry, was to complete his studies next year.
The plight of Chandrasekhara Reddy's family is more pathetic. His father Sambashiva Reddy, a retired forest officer, was not informed of his son's death as he had recently undergone heart surgery.
Relatives only informed him that his son was in serious condition. He along with a couple of other relatives are preparing to leave for the US.
Chandrasekhara Reddy, 31, who was doing PhD in biochemistry, was a native of Kommalapalli village of Lingala mandal in Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy's constituency of Pulivendula in Kadapa district, about 400 km from here.
He had no relatives in the US and his friend Kiran Kumar was his only support. He had married Kalpana, a native of Mahabubnagar district, only nine months ago and she is three-month pregnant.
US police suspect that three people had entered Kumar's apartment and shot the two friends.
It was Kumar's pregnant wife, Swapna, who found the bodies and called the police. The two had married about two years ago. Swapna, a software engineer, had joined her husband in August this year.
The tragedy struck the Kumar family as they were making preparations to celebrate their second marriage anniversary on Dec 25. Relatives recalled that the couple was eagerly waiting for the anniversary and had told them that it was going to be special occasion as they were expecting their first child.
Swapna's family was also shocked. Her father, Yadagiri Reddy, an executive engineer in Panchayat Raj Department, said the news had shattered all the dreams of the happy couple.
Meanwhile, the state government assured the families of the two youths that it would render all assistance.
"We are in touch with the officials of Indian embassy in Washington and we were told that two officials had already left for Louisiana to gather details of the incident," said state Energy Minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir, who also heads the Department of Non-Resident Indians in the state.
He told newsmen that the government would ensure that the last rites of the two youths were performed according to their wishes. "If they want to bring back the bodies here we will help them," he said.
Shabbir said representatives of Telugu Association in United States spoke to Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and urged him to order a thorough probe into the incident.