US kidnapper kills baby and granny

Parents' nicknames in ransom note led police to the suspect after baby's body found

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2012, 3:55am

A man who planned to hold his friends' baby girl hostage for $50,000 instead killed her and her grandmother, according to police in the United States.

Raghunandan "Raghu" Yandamuri, 26, knew the infant's parents both had good jobs as software engineers, and made out a ransom note threatening to kill the girl if they did not leave the money at a supermarket near their home in a suburb of Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, police said in an affidavit filed Friday.

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

The plot unravelled when he dropped the baby as he juggled her and a kitchen knife and struggled with her grandmother, who had been babysitting 10-month-old Saanvi Venna when Yandamuri struck last Monday, the affidavit said.

The grandmother, 61-year-old Satyavathi Venna, had answered the front door to find Yandamuri armed with a kitchen knife. She was fatally stabbed.

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.

The ransom note called the parents, who had emigrated from India, by their family nicknames, leading police to focus on friends and acquaintances. 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," Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman said. "Tragically, that is not the case."

Authorities instead announced on Friday that they had found the body of the infant in a bloody white dress beneath a bench at a fitness centre at the apartment complex where Yandamuri and the victims lived.

Yandamuri had been interviewed on 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. By the weekend he had detailed the botched crime to police. He also told how he had stolen jewellery from the apartment.

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

Yandamuri was last night being held without bail.

The baby's father, Venkata Venna, and mother, Chenchu Punuru, moved to the United States from India in February 2007 and moved into the apartment in June.

The grandmother Satyavathi Venna arrived from India in July for a six-month stay.