MONTE SERENO -- In the middle of the night, from her 7,000-square foot mansion behind 8-foot fences and an electronic security gate topped with gold-pointed finials, Harinder Kumra frantically begged police for help.
Intruders had ransacked her home and left, she told a 911 dispatcher just after 1:30 a.m. Friday. She had been beaten. And when police arrived, they found her husband, Ravi Kumra -- a multimillionaire venture capitalist who once owned the historic Mountain Winery -- dead on the floor.
She didn't recognize the assailants, she told police. But there was at least one, she said, maybe three or four of them.
The brazen home invasion in the wealthy enclave of Monte Sereno, nestled in the oak-studded hills between Los Gatos and Saratoga, shocked neighbors who were terrified that killers were still on the loose. It's the first homicide in the city since 1972.
Several neighbors gathered outside the Kumras' gate Friday afternoon hoping to hear that the crime was not a random burglary that could have struck any of them.
"We all live in fear that someone is breaking into this house at 1:30 in this neighborhood," said Chris Abate, who lives across the street.
"This is such a rare occurrence here."
But police, who worked into the night Friday collecting evidence on the 3-acre hillside property, would say only that it was too soon to tell.
Police declined to answer many questions, including how or why Ravi Kumra
Kumra, 66, had owned many businesses over the years but was best known in the community for owning the Mountain Winery on Pierce Road in the 1990s, a scenic winery built by vintner Paul Masson that for decades has been a popular concert venue. Before selling it
Kumra owned Western Cellular Management, which lists its business address as the family home on Withey Road, its number of employees as two and its annual revenue as $2.5 million.
According to public records, the Foundation for World Awakening was, at least at one point, also located at that address. A brass plaque on the front wrought-iron fence names the property as "Villa Constanza" but no one with that name lives there.
Scott Seaman, chief of the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department, would say only that the woman who called police was frantic, that a man was found dead on the floor when police arrived and that the house looked
"There are papers on the floor, a carpet was moved," Seaman told reporters. "Clearly the house had been gone through."
The house is so large, he said, that detectives from several agencies, including Campbell, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara County, were helping investigate and collect evidence.
One neighbor, who wanted to remain anonymous out of fear he could be targeted, said his wife had heard popping noises at 11:30 p.m. Thursday and again at about 1:30 a.m. Friday -- close to the time Harinder Kumra called police. In the midst of a rain and wind storm, the neighbor said, his wife "thought it was a tree coming down. She described it as a 'pop, pop, pop.'"
Police declined to name the victim, waiting to get more information from the coroner's office. But a nephew of the Kumras, reached by this newspaper, confirmed that his uncle was dead and aunt injured.
"He was really smart, and really good with numbers," said the nephew, who wanted to remain anonymous.
His aunt, who was hospitalized, he said, "is going to be OK."
Neighbors barely knew the couple. Unlike many residents who regularly walk their dogs or bicycle along Withey Road, they rarely saw the Kumras.
"They were the mystery couple on the street," said Steve Mortara, who lives just up the road. "No one saw them."
Still, he wants to believe the couple knew the intruders.
"Look at those alarms. They have gates," Mortara said. "I would venture to say someone knew them. Something's fishy about this."
The neighborhood is so exclusive and elegant that a fundraising tour of three estates nearby was under way Friday as police processed the crime scene on Withey Road. At one of the tour homes on a hillside overlooking the Kumra property, women on the tour pressed their noses to the windows to watch a news helicopter circle the sprawling estate with a red-tiled Mansard roof below.
While rare, murders are not unheard of in this community. Nearly three years ago, just a few hillsides over, a Saratoga man and his grown daughter were terrorized and beaten for hours by a handyman, plus an accomplice, who had worked on the property. Charlie Maridon, 96, died of his injuries a few days later. One suspect was killed in a shootout with police months later. The other was apprehended.
And in 2008, popular Los Gatos restaurateur Mark Achilli was gunned down in his driveway -- "a bow and arrow shot over this back lot," said Kumras neighbor Mortara.ï»¿ Achilli was the victim of a murder-for-hire scheme by Paul Garcia, who had bought Mountain Charley's Saloon from Achilli months earlier and coveted Achille's girlfriend. Garcia was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact Sgt. Mike D'Antonio of the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department at 408-827-3219, or contact police communications at 408-354-6843 after business hours.
Mercury News staff writer Eric Kurhi contributed to this report. Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at 408-278-3409. Follow her at Twitter.com/juliasulek.