Indian American facing charges of murdering elderly woman, her grand-daughter, requests delay in trial

Defense lawyers want witnesses to come from India

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: The legal team defending Raghunandan Yandamuri, the Indian American man arrested in 2012 for allegedly killing an elderly woman and her infant grandchild, has requested that the start of his trail be delayed to allow time for a number of key witnesses to come to the US.

Raghunandan Yandamuri (courtesy of Upper Merion Township Police Department)
Raghunandan Yandamuri (courtesy of Upper Merion Township Police Department)

Although the trial is set to begin in just a few weeks’ time, on May 5, many of the most crucial witnesses for Yandamuri’s defense are not in the US. Yandamuri’s defense attorneys, Stephen Heckman and Henry Hillis, are trying to bring people from India to take the stand for their client, but immigration hold-ups are preventing that.

According to their motion, filed with the court in eastern Pennsylvania, the list of people that Heckman and Hillis are attempting to bring to the trial include Yandamuri’s wife and brother, as well as others who were not specifically named in the filing.

The new motion is just the latest in a long line, in what has become a lugubrious and drawn-out litigation process. Over the last few months, Yandamuri’s defense team filed a number of motions to help increase their client’s chances of being acquitted. These have included asking to have all crime scene photos at the trial shown in grey-scale, rather than color to avoid bringing undue prejudice against Yandamuri with overly intense photographs, limiting the amount of computer-generated video shown to the jury to demonstrate what Yandamuri allegedly did, and dismissing a previously circulated video in which Yandamuri apparently confessed to the crime (a confession he later withdrew).

The details of what allegedly transpired on the night of October 26, 2012 are sordid and disturbing. According to police reports, Yandamuri hatched a scheme to kidnap a ten month-old girl named Saanvi, the daughter of Latha and Venkata Venna Konda, in the King of Prussia area of Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia.

Yandamuri was friends with the Venna Kondas, and was therefore intimate with the layout of their house, as well as their comings and goings. On the night of October 26, he went to the house to kidnap Saanvi, who he allegedly planned to hold for ransom. However, the girl’s grandmother, Satyavathi Venna, was in the house, and confronted Yandamuri when she saw him break in to nab Saanvi.

That’s when Yandamuri allegedly slit the grandmother’s throat, killing her. When Saanvi began crying, Yandamuri then allegedly stuffed rags down the baby’s throat, causing her to suffocate and die. He was arrested shortly thereafter; at the time of his arrest, he had a wife, who was pregnant with the couple’s first child.

Upon arrest, Yandamuri apparently gave a confession. But earlier this year, he recanted it, saying that it was coerced by police officers who did intimidated him and did not even allow him his customary phone call. Yandamuri is now pleading “not guilty” to murder charges, saying that two men he does not know actually committed the crime.

If Yandamuri is convicted, he faces the possibility of the death penalty. In fact, it is because of the possibility of capital punishment that so much of the case has been prolonged, as the defense team has argued that they must be allowed to prepare for trial as thoroughly as possible, given the severity of the potential punishment.

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