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Defendant testifies in deaths of baby, grandmother

October 7, 2014

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A suburban Philadelphia man on trial in the slayings of a baby and her grandmother who were killed in what authorities have called a botched kidnapping plot says he confessed because police threatened him and his wife.

Montgomery County prosecutors allege that Raghunandan Yandamuri, 27, kidnapped 10-month-old Saanvi Venna from her family’s King of Prussia apartment in October 2012 and killed the baby’s grandmother as part of a plot to gain $50,000 ransom for the child in order to settle gambling debts. The girl was later found dead.

Yandamuri, who is representing himself, told jurors Monday that detectives repeatedly refused to allow him to call his pregnant wife to let her know where he was at an “interrogation” that began in late afternoon and extended into the early morning hours.

“I was becoming more and more emotional,” Yandamuri testified, also alleging that police “played on” his concern about his wife. A county detective had testified earlier that he eventually did give Yandamuri the chance to talk to his wife on the phone, but the suspect said he didn’t want to do so.

The defendant said he eventually confessed because police threatened to arrest his wife for her statements about his whereabouts on the day of the murders.

Yandamuri also took issue with prosecutors’ portrayal of him as a gambler who borrowed from friends, saying the money he borrowed was to bring relatives to the United States. And while authorities said he was at a casino playing blackjack when authorities came to bring him in for questioning, he said he had gone there to arrange rooms for family members and that he was at the table waiting for approval he was told he needed from a manager.

Yandamuri, who has also said he was forced to lead two men to the household and they killed the victims, could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

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