Convict trashes his lawyers, says execution would be better
Apr. 14, 2015
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A man sentenced to death in the killings of a baby and her grandmother in what prosecutors called a botched kidnapping plot said Monday he's so dissatisfied with his attorneys he'd rather be executed now than continue seeking a new trial with them.
Raghunandan Yandamuri, who had served as his own lawyer before being convicted of murder, accused the attorneys of not responding to his calls or letters. He said Monday in Montgomery County Court if his appeal keeps going the same way he would rather be executed immediately.
Judge Steven O'Neill called that "a little dramatic."
Attorney Henry Hilles said he and colleague Stephen Heckman have spent more time with their client "than has ever occurred in Montgomery County history."
Yandamuri, 29, was a technology professional from India and knew the baby's parents. He was convicted of murder in the 2012 slayings of 10-month-old Saanvi Venna and 61-year-old Satayrathi Venna. He was expressionless as the verdict against him was read in October.
Prosecutors argued Yandamuri hatched the kidnapping plot to pay for a gambling habit. They said he was mired in gambling debts and told police he committed the crime after losing at least $15,000 at a casino.
He told investigators he panicked after the grandmother, who had opened her family's apartment door to him, was killed in a struggle over a kitchen knife he had carried.
He told police he accidentally dropped the baby, put a handkerchief over her mouth to quiet her and tied a towel around her head. He said he then left the baby — with her dark hair, huge dark eyes and white dress — in a trash-strewn, unused sauna in a basement fitness center and when he returned hours later with milk for her she was unconscious.
Yandamuri knew the baby's parents, who also were young Indian tech professionals, from his King of Prussia apartment complex. He had gone to a birthday party for the baby's mother, had met the visiting grandmother and used family nicknames in a ransom note demanding $50,000, authorities said.
"They both are working, so I thought maybe they have some money," Yandamuri told police in a videotaped statement. "My intention was not to kill anyone or not to harm anyone. I only tried to kidnap the baby."
At trial, though, Yandamuri argued two other men forced him at gunpoint to help and said he was pressured into confessing.