One year ago, a 16-year-old boy found his 51-year-old mother lying dead on the garage floor of their home on Roland Glen Road.
Nalini Tellaprolu, the married mother of a son and daughter, had been strangled, with a plastic bag over her head. Her feet were in the back seat of a car, according to an autopsy report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Tellaprolu’s body was covered with multiple bruises and scratches on her face, neck, torso and arms. There were minor blunt force injuries, and the cartilage in her neck was fractured, according to the report.
A year later, police still have not made an arrest in the case. Police Capt. Randall Rhyne described the investigation of Tellaprolu’s death as active and ongoing, but he would not say if detectives have identified a suspect. Nor would he say if Tellaprolu might have known her killer; the home’s alarm system had not been activated, and there were no signs of forced entry.
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It did not appear the home was targeted for robbery: Police say nothing had been removed from the home during the crime, according to search warrant applications filed at the Wake County Clerk of Courts Office.
Rhyne, the police department’s criminal investigations commander, stopped short of calling Tellaprolu’s homicide a cold case.
“We do not consider it a cold case because there’s still an active investigation,” Rhyne said Friday. “We do have a couple of cases that we consider to be cold because they are several years back.”
In the days after Tellaprolu’s death, investigators searched a 2013 Honda Civic she drove, the family home and the home’s alarm system.
Cary detective A. Dismukes stated in a search warrant application that at 3:20 p.m. on Dec. 17, 2015, Tellaprolu’s son, Arnav Uppalapati, led two uniformed officers to his mother’s body on the garage floor.
The teen told the officers that he had last seen his mother alive the night before at about 10:30 p.m. when the two of them ate dinner together. Arnav told police that he went upstairs to do his homework and later went to bed. He woke up the next morning about 6:50 a.m., ate breakfast and left for school at 7 a.m.
Arnav told police that he did not see or talk to his mother before leaving out the front door. The teen said he did not see his mother until he returned home at 3:20 p.m. and saw her lying on the garage floor, Dismukes wrote in the search warrant application.
Investigators later learned Tellaprolu’s husband, Babu Uppalapati, was out of state on a business trip. Babu Uppalapati told police that he had made several attempts to call and text his wife, without success. Uppalapati told detectives he had called his son and told him “to go home immediately after school and check on his mother because she as not answering her phone,” Dismukes wrote.
Detectives also learned that Tellaprolu was “adamant” about activating the home security system each night before she went to bed. “On the night of December 16th into the morning of December 17th, the home security system was never activated,” Dismukes wrote in the warrant application.
Tellaprolu failed to show up for work on Dec. 17 at Duke University Health System, where she was a testing coordinator and quality assurance team leader. She also served on the board of directors of the Triangle Area Telugu Association, a nonprofit that seeks to promote southeastern Indian culture.
Tellaprolu’s friends described her as a fun-loving, caring and attentive mother. She moved to Cary from Detroit in 2008 with her husband and Arnav to be closer to their daughter Avani, who was attending the N.C. School of Math and Science.
Tellaprolu told friends how Arnav, who attended Green Hope High School, stayed up late doing homework. She would stay up with him to ensure he had plenty of snacks.
Soon after Tellaprolu’s death, a family friend, ViJay Javvadi, said a lot of her friends were concerned and wanted to put the tragedy behind them. Javvadi said Friday he was surprised that police still had not made an arrest.
“I don’t know the details of what’s going on, but I’m sure they are trying their best,” Javvadi said. “That’s my hope. Find who the perpetrator is so that they don’t hurt someone else.”