The Water Tank Mystery

Date Published 03.29.06
It's hard to imagine a worse way to die.

Geetha Angara was one of the people most familiar with the 35-foot-deep water tank at the Passaic Valley Water Commission in Totowa, New Jersey. She was the senior chemist in charge of testing readings at the tank. With her two-way radio, clipboard, and glass beaker Angara would often descend into the concrete corridor that sits above the water. She would have felt no danger as she walked along the underground maze on February 8th, 2005. She was at work, after all, and it was just a little after 10 a.m. Besides, Passaic Valley Water is a state-of-the-art facility with top-notch security.

Which is why it must have been horrifying when the attack occurred. When someone, almost certainly a trusted co-worker, attacked her with his bare hands. The tank area, perhaps an escape for Angara from the hassles of the everyday office environment, would now seem ominous in its isolation. There was no one to hear her cries. No one to stop her murderer when he pushed aside a 50-pound grate opening and shoved Angara down into the tank. Whatever light existed was blotted out as the killer replaced the metal panel. Clink . The sound of hurried footsteps faded away. And 43 year-old Geetha Angara, mother of three, was left alone to die in the one million gallons of inky dark, near freezing water whose quality she had worked diligently to ensure during her 12 years on the job.


Authorities are quoted as saying they're 99.9% sure Angara was killed by a co-worker, one of the 50 people working at the treatment plant that day. That seems likely. It's a fenced-in building, filled with security guards and video cameras. The time-line is narrow. Angara was last seen descending into the plant's lower level by a co-worker around 10:30 a.m. That same co-worker reported finding shards of a broken beaker next to the metal plate at 10:46 a.m. Sometime in those roughly fifteen minutes Angara had an encounter - most likely an intense, sudden argument that escalated into violence, according to authorities - that ended her life.

Why? And who? Angara had recently received a promotion, making professional jealousy an early favorite for motive. But investigators could find no evidence of a workplace grudge. She was found fully clothed and there was no sign of sexual assault. Her family has been quoted as saying they believe Angara may have stumbled upon something the killer didn't want her to see, though they don't know what that might be.

What is known is that of the 50 co-workers investigators have narrowed their suspect list to just three men, all of whom did not have solid alibis. All three were asked to take polygraph tests. One passed, one tested inconclusive, and one refused. One of the three suspects is the co-worker who told Angara that two water filters needed to be calibrated. This same co-worker was the last to see Angara as she descended into the lower level to calibrate the filters. This same man reported finding shards of glass from what turned out to be Angara's shattered beaker. And, according to co-workers, he was the first to notice Angara missing, asking repeatedly throughout the day if anyone had seen her.


Mark Mueller of Newark's Star-Ledger reports that Lt. James Woods, an investigator with the prosecutor's office, said detectives have a “good idea” of who killed Angara but don't have enough evidence for a charge to hold up in court. That leaves Geetha Angara's husband and three children frustrated and in enormous pain. According to news reports they have implored the prosecutor's office to bring in more help, and have appealed to both the U.S. Attorney's Office and the state Attorney General's Office to look into the murder. But by all appearances it is a case gone cold.

At the Passaic Valley Water Commission, life goes on. All three suspects continue to report for work. Beefed up security demands that employees now pair up as they make their rounds, but it's hard to imagine they feel safe, knowing that someone, possibly the person next to them, is a cold-blooded killer who is getting away with murder.

The Feed

RT @emilynussbaum: The artful @hodgman's straightforward case for Hillary:
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Know what he does believe in? PAC $. Took 10K from HRC pac 2006. That means he's in her pocket.#BSLogic
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Good one. Unfortunately Bernie on record as not believing in charity.
@johnlevenstein Thanks for asking, btw. That's the kind of elevated discourse missing lately. A lot of mud slinging. #I'mNotAboveItEither
@johnlevenstein Can't convey it all thru Twitter but yes, she has flaws. Too poll-driven, burned needed bridges, trouble owning mistakes.