Local/State

Video confession details deaths of baby, grandmother

Thursday, November 29, 2012

In a gripping videotaped police statement played during a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, 26-year-old Raghunandan Yandamuri described the circumstances which led to the murder of a baby girl and her grandmother in Montgomery County.

It was a chilling, matter-of-fact tale.

"This is one of those cases that haunts you," said Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele.

And no one is more haunted than the parents of 10-month-old baby Saanvi. They sat quietly in court Wednesday and listened as Yandamuri descibed what happened in a videotaped confession.

"My intention was not to kill anyone or not to harm anyone. I only tried to kidnap the baby," Yandamuri told investigators.

But 61-year-old Satayvahti Venna struggled to protect her granddaughter.

On the video, Yandamuri demonstrates how he held the baby in one arm and fended off her grandmother. He says he accidentally slashed her across the throat with a kitchen knife, dropped the baby, and then fell on top of her.

Yandamuri then describes how he tried to keep the crying baby quiet by stuffing a handkerchief in her mouth and securing it with a towel.

"I kept the kerchief in the mouth and I surrounded the head with a towel around the neck and tied it hard. But I don't know if that was too tight for her," he said.

He then describes how he stuffed Saanvi into a suitcase and left her in an unused fitness room in the basement of one of the buildings at the Marquis Apartments on Route 202 in King of Prussia.

He says he went home and showered and then went to work.

When he arrived back home around 3:30 p.m. Yandamuri says he went to check on Saanvi and feed her.

"I took a bottle of milk, a water bottle like this and I filled it with milk," he told investigators.

"You filled it with milk from your house?" asked a detective.

"Yes, from my house," said Yandamuri.

"And where did you go?" asked the detective.

"I went to the gym again where Saanvi is and tried feeding her if she's awake," said Yandamuri.

"Okay, was she awake?" the detective asked.

"She's unconscious and she's not alive by the time I saw her," said Yandamuri.

Yandamuri has a gambling problem, and investigators say he was hoping to ransom Saanvi for $50,000.

But, with the baby now dead, Yandamuri joined the candlelight vigils and stood at the family's side as they pleaded for public help to find their daughter.

The prosecutor says they haven't decided yet whether to seek the death penalty.

Yandamuri's lawyer says keeping him alive is their main goal in the face of the damaging video.

"Certainly at this point it does not look helpful, based on what we've seen so far," said defense attorney Stephen Heckman.

Yandamuri's court-appointed lawyer tried to get the judge to drop the most serious charges of first degree murder, since a conviction carries the possibility of the death penalty.

Heckman argued that according to the video confession, Yandamuri didn't intend to kill either the grandmother or the baby, and therefore the deaths were accidental, not premeditated.

But Judge James Gallagher ordered Yandamuri held for trial for first degree murder in both deaths..

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homicide, stabbing, pennsylvania, local/state
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