A family friend has been charged in the death of 10-month-old Saanvi Venna after the girl’s body was discovered overnight, authorities said.
Raghunandan Yandamuri, 26, who lives in the same Upper Merion apartment complex as the girl’s family, killed the girl’s grandmother Satyavathi Venni, 61, and kidnapped Saanvi on Monday with the intention of holding her for a $50,000 ransom, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said at a press conference Friday. Instead, he allegedly suffocated her with a handkerchief and stuffed her into a suitcase, which he dumped after he left the Vennas’ apartment, she said.
Saanvi’s body was found in basement bathroom sauna around 4:30 a.m. Friday.
Yandamuri is being charged with both murders. Authorities said they believe he acted alone.
Here are the allegations laid out in the arrest affidavit:
Yandamuri printed 10 copies of a ransom demand at his job Monday morning. He then left his job and went to the Vennas’ apartment armed with a kitchen knife. Satyavathi Venni answered the door, and Yandamuri threatened her with the knife. When he saw the girl on the couch, he grabbed her and tried to flee, but she slipped from his arm, causing them both to fall. Yandamuri told detectives that as they were falling, the grandmother came towards him and that’s when she was slashed in the throat. Yandamuri told detectives that he stuffed a handkerchief into Saanvi’s mouth to quiet the crying child, and then wrapped a towel around her head to keep the handkerchief in place. He then placed her inside a suitcase he found in the bedroom, and also took some jewelry. Yandamuri told detectives he left the Saanvi’s apartment and abandoned the suitcase inside the men’s room of the gym in the apartment complex. He told detectives he tossed the knife, some of his clothes and the suitcase into a dumpster in another part of Upper Merion, and tossed some of the jewelry into the Schuylkhill River.
Yandamuri allegedly confessed to the crime, and also asked detectives to “tell the media that his wife turned him in so she could get the ‘thirty grand.'”
The news was devastating for Saanvi’s family and supporters who had been praying for her safe return since Monday.
“Very, very sad, we cannot understand how this man can kill a 10-month-old little girl,” said Prasad Thotakura, president of the Telugu Association of North America, an Indian-American organization, adding that prosecutors should seek the maximum penalty. “Killing two people with no reason, we cannot understand how he can do that.”
Thotakura said he did not personally know Yandamuri, but that Yandamuri worked for eBay, had recently married and lived in the apartment with his wife.
According to the affidavit, Yandamuri printed posters with Saanvi’s picture and helped distribute them in the area. He also visited the family at the police department and attended the vigil.
Saanvi’s death marks the second tragic murder of a child in the region this week. Autumn Pasquale, 12, was beaten and strangled in Clayton, N.J., and stuffed into a recycling bin. Two teenage brothers, 15-year-old Justin Robinson and 17-year-old Dante Robinson, have been charged with first-degree murder.