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Doctor Fatally Shot During Robbery at His Home

TIMES STAFF WRITER

He was a quiet man, the kind of person who keeps his business and his problems to himself.

So homicide investigators had their work cut out for them Wednesday as they searched for clues into the murder of surgeon and businessman Dr. Jagjit Singh Sehdeva in his hilltop home overlooking the ocean in Playa del Rey.

Sehdeva, 60, was shot to death about 9:20 p.m. Tuesday by two men who accosted him in an office at the rear of his home in the 7300 block of Rindge Avenue, said Los Angeles police detectives.

Investigators said the intruders confronted a housekeeper and tied her up before shooting Sehdeva twice. Then they fled, dragging a heavy floor safe out the front door.

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The unidentified housekeeper, who was unharmed, managed to call police and Sehdeva’s wife on a cordless telephone. Police cautiously searched the house and found Sehdeva’s body when they reached the office.

The killing jolted the quiet oceanfront neighborhood just north of Los Angeles International Airport. It also surprised those who knew Sehdeva by the different hats he wore: civic leader, skilled surgeon and hard-driving businessman.

An immigrant from Patalia, India, Sehdeva shared an office in a Marina del Rey medical building with his wife, Dr. Parkash Sehdeva, an obstetrician-gynecologist.

He was a skilled vascular and thoracic surgeon, known in hospital operating rooms around town as a person who was always cool under pressure and unwaveringly polite.

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He also was a businessman, involved first with medical-related companies and eventually with a theater and nightclub that he owned.

He had served as president of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission in 1990. A Rotarian for 26 years, he was president of the Westchester Rotary Club in 1991.

Fellow Rotarians knew him as Jay Sehdeva. He would invite new members of the club to his hilltop home for introductory meetings and actively supported the 65-member club’s student scholarship program and the orphanage it sponsors in Mexico.

At noon Wednesday, club members holding their regular meeting at the airport-area Marriott hotel offered a Sikh prayer for Sehdeva before pausing to meditate about his loss. The prayer dealt with “bearing the unbearable.”

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Sehdeva had been Rotarian Richard C. Jones’ doctor. “Just the first of this year he operated on me for a hernia,” Jones said. “He was a true gentleman, always looking out for other people’s interest.”

In Marina del Rey, the flag outside Daniel Freeman Marina Medical Center flew at half staff in Sehdeva’s memory. On the fifth floor where the husband-and-wife team had practiced together for longer than anyone else there, doctors and nurses puzzled over the slaying.

Could their friend have been the victim of a follow-home robbery?

“He was never flashy, he never drove a fancy car,” said Dora Reinhardt, a nurse in a nearby office. “They were down-to-earth people. They didn’t dress or act in a way to attract attention.

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“I can’t imagine them having any enemies. They’re so nice. I can’t imagine anybody doing this to him.”

Colleagues said Sehdeva regularly practiced at Daniel Freeman Hospital, Community Hospital of Gardena and Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center. At the Los Angeles hospital, Dr. Charles Hopkins, Sehdeva’s frequent operating room companion, was devastated by the news.

“I really loved that man. I worked 20 years with him. He was one of the kindest men I’ve ever met. I never saw any anger,” Hopkins said.

Early in their relationship, the pair worked long hours together placing pacemakers in coronary patients. Hopkins said he was aware that Sehdeva had outside business interests and investments.

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“He wasn’t a person to talk much about that sort of thing,” Hopkins said. “We were talking about that here today. I don’t see how he could have had any enemies. But I did hear today something about someone once trying to kill him.”

That occurred in 1990, when the owner of the male stripper club Chippendale’s was accused of attempting to orchestrate the murder of Sehdeva. In an indictment unveiled in 1993, club owner Somen “Steve” Banerjee of Playa del Rey was accused of the plot.

Although the indictment did not state why Sehdeva was targeted, sources indicated that Banerjee and the doctor were involved in a business dispute. The indictment did not say how the alleged plot was foiled. Banerjee later pleaded guilty to a 1987 murder, but he was found dead in his jail cell in 1994 before he could start a 26-year prison sentence.

It was during that period that Sehdeva became involved with the Variety Arts Center in downtown Los Angeles. The venerable theater at 9th and Figueroa streets had been a monument to vaudeville until it filed for bankruptcy in 1987.

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Business picked up at the club after an investment group headed by Sehdeva purchased it. By 1995, it had become so busy as a dance club and theater that more than 400 complaints of excessive noise were filed with city zoning enforcement officers.

Sehdeva was ordered to take steps to quiet things down. These days, the center is still used as a nightclub and for concerts and for film shoots.

The center was closed Tuesday in memory of its owner.

Public records indicate that Sehdeva was involved in a variety of other business ventures. They include a company called Crown Imperial Associates, J & P Employers Services Inc. and J.J. Polymers and Adhesives Inc.

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Playa del Rey neighbors said a spurt of armed robberies and at least one follow-home robbery three years ago prompted residents to sign up for a private security service for the area.

But Edward Moore, owner of Security Service Systems, said Sehdeva was in the habit of leaving his alarm off when he was home. “We didn’t get an alarm last night,” Moore said.

One longtime friend and patient of Parkash Sehdeva said she had been working at a hospital at the time of her husband’s slaying.

The tragedy was unfair to all involved, said Playa del Rey resident Imelda Lopez, whose two children were delivered by Parkash Sehdeva.

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“These people were givers of life, not takers of life,” she said.


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