Washington: For USD 50,000, a 26-year-old software engineer from Andhra Pradesh kidnapped and killed his family friend`s 10-month-old baby Saanvi, whose body he stuffed in a suitcase, but nicknames used by him in the ransom note provided critical clues that helped police nab him.
Raghunandan Yandamuri was arrested on charges of kidnapping and killing Saanvi Venna and her 61-year-old grandmother Satyavathi Venna, who was found dead at an apartment complex in Upper Merion Township on October 22.
Yandamuri, who used to live in the same complex, was produced before a Pennsylvania court after police recovered the body of Saanvi yesterday from the men`s locker room of his apartment`s gymnasium in the King of Prussia, hidden inside a dark wooden sauna under a deep bench, with blood marks on her white dress.
Court documents indicate that Yandamuri moved to King of Prussia, in Upper Merlon Township of Pennsylvania from San Jose in California. Being held without a bail, he does not have a lawyer.
He told the detectives that he targeted the apartment of Venkata Venna, 41, and Chenchu Latha Punuru because he believed they had money as they both were employed.
The 10 copies of the ransom note demanding USD 50,000 that he had left in the apartment at the time of the incident led to his arrest.
The ransom note asked Venkata that "Lata" be asked to deliver USD 50,000 the "Baha Fresh" at the ACME store complex.
Investigators determined "Lata" is a reference to Chenchu wife of Venkata and only some close friends call her with that name.
"The First word in the ransom note is `Shiva`. During the interview Vankata told the investigators that his full name is Venkata Konda Siva Prasad Venna, and some of his close friends and family members call him `Siva`," the affidavit said.
Both Chenchu and Venkata were asked to provide a list of
people who had knowledge of the `Siva` and `Lata` names.
Each provided a list of Indian natives who either used or were aware of these nicknames, Among the names provided by the couple was the name of `Ragu` , who happened to be Raghunandan Yandamuri.
According Raghunandan alias Ragu, he killed Satyavathi as she resisted the kidnapping of Saanvi.
Raghu told the police that Saanvi began to cry and he stuffed a handkerchief in her mouth to make her stop crying and placed a bath towel around her head to hold the handkerchief in place.
"He then put her inside a blue suitcase he found in the bedroom, he took jewellery he found in the apartment and placed that in the suitcase with Saanvi, he then left the apartment and abandoned Saanvi`s body hidden in the steam room, of the mens bathroom, of the gymnasium located inside marquis Apartment Building," the affidavit said.
"Raghu then dumped the knife, some of his clothes and the blue suitcase in a dumpster in another part of the Upper Merion Township, he disposed some of the stolen jewellery in the Schuylkill river and said he left some at this place of employment," the police said.
The authorities had also announced USD 50,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of the toddler.
The police, in its affidavit, said that Yandamuri told the detectives at the end of his interrogation to tell the media that his wife turned in him so that she could get the USD 50,000 award announced by the police and Telugu community for information leading to Saanvi.
According to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filed by Raghunandan early this year, Yandamuri used to work for Sarayu Consultants Inc, an Illinois-based software consulting firm.
The company did not respond to the telephone call and emails if Yandamuri still works for the company.
More shocking to the Telugu community in the US was the very fact that Yandamuri, after the kidnapping of Saanvi, was not only consoling the family of his friend but also organising the community in vigil for Saanvi and distribution of flyers.
During initial interrogation, he told the police that he created a missing child poster with two pictures of Saanvi, printing 150-200 copies at work and delivering them to the family for distribution and around the community.
However, he soon broke down and admitted to the police that he was responsible for the death of both Saanvi and her grandmother Satyavathi.
"He described going to work on Monday and using his work computer to prepare a note demanding money from the Vennas. He said he printed copies of the note on his work computer and took them to the Venna`s apartment.
"He stated it was his intention to take Saanvi and hide her until her parents paid the ransom," the police affidavit said, adding that he brought 10 copies of the ransom note.
According to the police affidavit, they found the ransom note when they went to the apartment and found the body of Satyavathi.