IRVINE, Calif. – The burned body of a young woman was found on a hiking trail hours after her bludgeoned, unconscious mother was discovered in the driveway of their burning Anaheim home, police said Tuesday.
The remains of Karishma Dhanak, 20, were found on a trail where a second charred body was discovered but wasn't immediately identified. Investigators said it could be the daughter's missing father, Jayprakash Dhanak.
"There's a possibility that's going to be the father we have been seeking," Anaheim police Sgt. Rick Martinez said.
Dhanak's 53-year-old mother was beaten with a blunt object and found in the driveway of an Anaheim home by firefighters and police responding to a deliberately set house fire at about 11 p.m. Monday, Martinez said.
The woman was hospitalized in serious condition and police began a search for her missing husband and 20-year-old daughter.
"We believe foul play is involved in their disappearance," Martinez said. "It does look like the house was intentionally set on fire."
No one has been arrested and authorities won't speculate on a motive.
The apparent attack occurred in a neighborhood of tract homes built in the 1970s that are close to the 91 Freeway near the Riverside-Orange County border. Martinez called it a quiet, well-maintained neighborhood and said the crime was "uncharacteristic" for the area.
At about 4:15 a.m. Tuesday, firefighters and police responding to reports of smoke found two burned bodies along a trail near Irvine's Concordia University, about 20 miles south of the family home, Irvine police Lt. Rick Handfield said.
The young woman was identified through fingerprints, but Handfield said identification was difficult on the second badly burned body, but the victim was believed to be male.
Jayprakash Dhanak pleaded guilty in 2002 to mail fraud in a scheme to defraud the U.S. Postal Service out of millions of dollars. He was sentenced to 27 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution. The mailing company where Dhanak worked as a production manager, Master-Sort Inc., also pleaded guilty in the case.
Master-Sort presorted mail for other companies and earned refunds based on the amount of metered and permit mail it handled. Dhanak was accused of altering reports to make it appear the company was eligible for larger refunds than it had actually earned.
Charges against Dhanak's wife were dropped.
Leela Dhanak's defense attorney in the case described the couple as quiet and hardworking.
"I don't have any reason to suspect they had any enemies," attorney David Morse said. "This comes as a complete shock."