Vijayanarayana Dharman appears in court for sentencing Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Vijayanarayana Dharman appears in court for sentencing Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Mill Creek man gets 18 years for killing wife, blaming depression

After losing his parents in India and being fired from his job, Vijayanarayana Dharman stabbed his wife to death.

MILL CREEK — A former Amazon employee from Mill Creek was sentenced to over 18 years in prison Wednesday for stabbing his wife to death, an attack he blamed on his deep depression.

Vijayanarayana Dharman, 37, had no criminal history and no previous record of aggressive behavior, according to court documents. Prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder on June 15.

On Aug. 23, Dharman pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder.

Both parties recommended a sentence of 18⅓ years, the high end of the range Dharman faced under state sentencing guidelines. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Cindy Larsen accepted the recommendation.

Larsen said there wasn’t much for her to say about the matter.

“You have the option of moving on, the wife and the mother of your children (does) not,” Larsen said. “I understand depression. But there was a different way out.”

Dharman’s attorney, Jeffery Wolfenbarger, said this was one of the saddest cases he’s handled in his 10 years in criminal defense.

“My client came to this country with his family, he had dreams,” Wolfenbarger said. “A hole was being dug that there was really no way out of, and everything came to a head.”

Dharman was born in India and was the youngest of five children, according to a social worker’s report.

His father took out loans to send Dharman to private school. Dharman got a degree in engineering and began working for a large software company.

He married Nandhini Kamalakannan when he was 25 and she was 18. It was an arranged marriage between their families, a common practice in India.

The couple had their first child in 2013 and a second in 2015. Dharman’s stepmother helped with the children, but it became too much for her after the second child was born, according to court documents. Kamalakannan moved with the kids to be closer to her family, while Dharman would visit on weekends.

Dharman got a job with Amazon in 2012. He had more career opportunities if he worked for the headquarters in Seattle. He had no desire to live in the United States, but moved there in 2018 with his wife and children.

In the Seattle area, Dharman and his wife made friends with nearby Indian families. Kamalakannan enjoyed her new life so much she asked Dharman to purchase a house when something showed up in their price range.

In June 2020, Dharman’s father died and he was unable to partake in the traditional ceremonies because of pandemic travel restrictions.

“He was not able to fully grieve and get closure, and he was worried about his mother who was all alone,” social worker Jill Anderson wrote.

Dharman grew depressed and took two months off work, Anderson wrote. In May 2021, his mother died, but he was in the middle of closing the purchase of a home in Mill Creek. Once again, he was unable to travel to India.

The couple had invested almost all of their savings into home loans and remodeling. Financially, he felt stuck.

In December 2021, Dharman visited India. He went to a place for people to honor the deaths of loved ones if they were unable to participate in initial mourning ceremonies. It filled him with a “tremendous sense of guilt,” Anderson wrote.

Dharman became so depressed he stopped working altogether. He would open his laptop and just sit there, staring at the screen, according to court records. His supervisors tried to reach out to him multiple times, even calling police to conduct a welfare check. Dharman was eventually fired.

According to a police report, he racked up $50,000 in credit card debt. In late May, Dharman tried using his credit card to order DoorDash, but it was declined. It triggered a discussion with Kamalakannan, detectives wrote.

Now that his wife knew about their financial woes, Dharman didn’t know what to do, the report said. He thought about killing himself, but worried how his wife would support herself.

For about six months, Dharman had kept a hatchet and knives under his bed as an “escape,” according to his statement in the charges.

“The only solution he could see was to take her life to spare her the humiliation she would face, before taking his own life,” the social worker wrote. “Obviously, this is not a rational solution, but his judgement was so clouded by depression that he saw no other options.”

On May 24, Kamalakannan called close family friends for advice and comfort, the charges say. She found out that evening Dharman no longer worked at Amazon.

Their friends came over to talk about helping them return to India. The defendant stayed in his bedroom the entire time.

After the friends left, court records say, Kamalakannan came into the bedroom and kissed him on the cheek and told him they’d take care of everything, that they’d return to India and start a new life.

The next morning, Dharman’s wife woke him up around 7 a.m., then left to take their kids to the bus stop for school. She came back and tried to console him.

When she got back, she noticed Dharman trying to hide something. In a police interview, Dharman said he was not sure at this point if he wanted to hurt himself or her. He reported he “lost his mind” and felt that someone else was controlling his body.

He stabbed her 15 times.

Dharman tried to kill himself but could not go through with it, according to court documents. He called police, confessing to the killing.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Derek Keenan said in court the swift resolution in the case could provide some closure for Kamalakannan’s family in India.

In court Wednesday, Dharman declined to speak.

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486;; Twitter: @snocojon.

Need help?

If you or someone you know needs a safe place to talk because of domestic abuse, you can call Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County at 425-25-ABUSE (425-252-2873). The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Call takers are there to help, not to tell you what to do.

You can also reach out to the Providence Intervention Center for Assault and Abuse: 425-252-4800.

If you are worried about being heard on the phone, you can text 911.

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