BRIDGEPORT, Pa. (AP) — A young man mired in gambling debts told police he killed a 10-month-old girl and her grandmother during a botched kidnapping after losing at least $15,000 at a casino near his office.
Raghunandan Yandamuri, 26, knew the family from his apartment complex. Like him, the baby's parents were young technology professionals from India. He had gone to the wife's birthday party, met the visiting grandmother and — tellingly — used family nicknames in a ransom note demanding $50,000.
"They both are working, so I thought maybe they have some money," Yandamuri told police in a videotaped statement played at his preliminary hearing Wednesday, during which a suburban Philadelphia judge ordered him to stand trial on murder, kidnapping and other charges.
"My intention was not to kill anyone or not to harm anyone," he said. "I only tried to kidnap the baby."
Yandamuri told investigators he panicked after the grandmother, who had opened the apartment door to him on Oct. 22, was killed in a struggle over a kitchen knife he had brought.
He accidentally dropped the baby, put a handkerchief over her mouth to quiet her and tied a towel around her head, he told police. He then left the infant — with her dark hair, huge dark eyes and white dress — in a trash-strewn, unused sauna in a basement fitness center, he said.
He said he returned hours later with milk for her, but found her "unconscious."
Yandamuri was arrested days later as police, given the nicknames in the ransom note, zeroed in on people who knew the couple.
Venkata Venna, and his wife, Chenchu Latha Punuruss, did not know of anyone with a grudge against them. They are both software engineers who came to the U.S. in 2007.
They had left for work about 8 a.m. that Monday, leaving their only child with Venna's mother, 61-year-old Satyavathi Venna, who was visiting from India. Venna raced home at 12:30 p.m. when his mother didn't answer the phone. He found her in a pool of blood, and discovered his daughter was missing.
Yandamuri worked in information technology for GSI Commerce Inc., a unit of eBay Inc. that builds e-commerce sites for other businesses. Its office in King of Prussia, Pa., is less than a mile from the Valley Forge Casino Resort.