DA: Friend planned $50K kidnapping, but baby died

Associated Press
Raghunandan Yandamuri, 26, is shown in this undated photo provided by the Upper Merion Township, Pa., Police Department. Authorities recovered the body of 10-month-old Saanvi Venna not far from where her grandmother was slain and arrested Yandamuri, a family friend who investigators said killed them in a botched ransom kidnapping. (AP Photo/Upper Merion Township Police Department)
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Raghunandan Yandamuri, 26, is shown in this undated photo provided by the Upper Merion Township, Pa., …

BRIDGEPORT, Pa. (AP) — A family friend hoped to hold a baby girl hostage to get $50,000 from her software-engineer parents but instead killed her and her grandmother in a botched kidnapping, according to police in a Philadelphia suburb.

Raghunandan "Raghu" Yandamuri, 26, knew the infant's parents both had good jobs, and he crafted a ransom note threatening to kill their daughter if they did not leave the money at a local supermarket, police said in an affidavit filed Friday.

"It's up to you to decide, do you want your 1-year-old or five months of your income?" the lengthy, typed note said.

The plot unraveled when he dropped the baby as he juggled her and a kitchen knife and struggled with her paternal grandmother, who was watching 10-month-old Saanvi Venna on Monday during a six-month visit from India, the affidavit said.

The grandmother, 61-year-old Satyavathi Venna, was fatally stabbed and suffered defensive wounds. The suspect told police he put a handkerchief in the baby's mouth to quiet her, then wrapped a towel around her head and put her in a suitcase when he left the sixth-floor apartment, according to the affidavit.

The ransom note called the parents by their family nicknames, leading police to focus on friends and acquaintances, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman said. The parents were never again contacted for money as the search for the missing infant stretched through the week.

"We had been hopeful that Saanvi was still alive," Ferman said Friday. "Tragically, that is not the case."

Authorities instead found the infant in a bloody white dress beneath a bench near the sauna of the fitness center at the sprawling apartment complex where Yandamuri and the victims lived.

Yandamuri had been interviewed Thursday as police canvassed the family's friends. He told police that he had printed nearly 200 missing-child posters at work, distributed them and attended a vigil for the baby. But he later detailed the botched crime to police and said he had stolen jewelry, some of which he threw in the nearby Schuylkill River, the affidavit said.

A throng of people jeered at him, shouting "Hang him!" and other taunts, as he was led into court Friday afternoon in a bulletproof vest.

Yandamuri was being held without bail on two counts of murder, kidnapping, robbery and other charges pending a preliminary hearing set next week. He does not have a lawyer and did not enter a plea at a brief arraignment Friday. He told a judge he is not a U.S. citizen and was given time to make a private call to the Indian consulate.

The baby's father, Venkata Konda Siva Venna, and mother, Chenchu Latha Punuru, moved to the United States from India in February 2007 and moved into the apartment in June. Satyavathi Venna arrived from India in July and was scheduled to return home in January.

She opened the door to Yandamuri on Monday morning to see he was armed with a kitchen knife, authorities said. She retreated to the kitchen, while he picked up the baby from the couch, the affidavit said.

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