Andhra Techie First Indian-American Likely to Be Executed in US

He is likely to get a reprieve as the Governor of Pennsylvania had put a moratorium on death penalty in 2015.

3 min read
Raghunandan Yandamuri, a native of Andhra Pradesh, was found guilty of two counts of first degree murder.

The execution of an Indian techie, convicted of murdering a 10-month-old child and the child’s grandmother in 2012 in Pennsylvania, has been scheduled for 23 February, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has said in a statement.

Raghunandan Yandamuri, a native of Andhra Pradesh, was found guilty on two counts of first degree murder. He was sentenced to death in 2015 and in 2017, Pennsylvania’s high court affirmed the sentence.

However, Raghunandan reportedly is likely to get a reprieve because the Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Wolf had put a moratorium on the death penalty in 2015.

"Wolf imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2015, and state officials are awaiting the results of a study conducted by the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Committee on Capital Punishment, a legislative commission, before moving forward with any executions," The Times Herald reported.

No person on death row has been executed in the state since 1999.

According to IndiaWest, Yandamuri will be the first Indian American to receive the death penalty. And if his execution is carried out, it will be done by administering a lethal injection. He is currently held at the Greene State Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania.

The Crime

Raghunandan (32) worked as a software engineer in the US.

On 22 October 2012, he murdered 10-month-old Saanvi and her 61-year-old grandmother Satyavathi Venna at an apartment complex in Upper Merion, a township in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Raghunandan was a family friend of the Vennas and lived in the same apartment complex.

Saanvi’s body was found by investigators in the men’s bathroom of the gymnasium in the complex.

The motive for the murder was money; Raghunandan had a lot of gambling debts that he was unable to repay. He hatched a plan to kidnap Saanvi and demand money from her parents, Venkata Venna and Chenchu Latha Punuru, as he believed that the duo was wealthy since they both were working.

Raghunandan told the police that he killed Satyavathi when she resisted Saanvi’s kidnapping. When the baby began to cry, he stuffed her mouth with a handkerchief and also wrapped a towel around her face to hold the handkerchief.

"He then put her inside a blue suitcase he found in the bedroom, took jewellery he found in the apartment, and placed that in the suitcase with Saanvi, then left the apartment and abandoned Saanvi’s body hidden in the steam room of the men’s bathroom of the gymnasium located inside the Marquis apartment building," the police affidavit read.

Soon after Satyavathi's murder came to light and Saanvi was found missing, a search for the baby began. Raghunandan went to console the parents and even distributed flyers seeking information about the missing baby.

How Was He Caught

Raghunandan had left behind 10 copies of a ransom note demanding $50,000 in the apartment before leaving. The nicknames that he had used in his note helped the police trace the crime back to him.

In the note, he asked ‘Lata’, Saanvi’s mother, to send the money to a location he had mentioned. But only a few close people addressed her by that name.

The note also mentioned the name Siva.

The first word in the ransom note is ‘Siva’. During the interview, Venkata Venna 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 affadavit

The investigators then asked the couple to list names of people who were aware of the names ‘Lata’ and ‘Siva’. Raghunandan’s name featured in the list too. On being interrogated, he admitted to have committed the horrific crimes.

Raghunandan also told investigators that he panicked and the deaths were accidental. During the trial, he alleged that he had been pressured into confessing the crime.

(This article was first published in The News Minute, and has been republished here with permission.)

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