Updated: Monday, February 19, 2018 11:25 am EST
Raghunandan Yandamuri was scheduled to be executed at 7 pm EST, on Friday, February 23, 2107, at the State Correctional Institute Rockview in Rockview, Pennsylvania. His execution has been stayed. Thirty-two-year-old Raghunandan is convicted of the murder of 61-year-old Satyavathi Venna and 10-month-old Saanvi Venna in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania on October 22, 2012. Raghunandan has spent the last three years on Pennsylvania’s death row.
Raghunandan was born in India and never became a citizen of the United States. Raghunandan obtained an advanced degree in electrical and computer science engineering. Raghunandan did not have a history of criminal convictions or mental or emotional problems, according to information provided at his trial.
Raghunandan Yandamuri and his wife attended a party at Marquis Apartments in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania on October 20, 2012. During the party, they met Chenchu and Venkata Venna and their 10-month-old daughter Saanvi. During the party, Chenchu and Venkata talked about they both work and their daughter would be staying with grandparents during the day. Yandamuri held the baby during the party and the gold jewelry the baby was wearing was also discussed.
Two days later, Yandamuri returned the apartment where the party was held. Satyavathi Venna, the grandmother who was watching Saanvi, answered the door. Yandamuri brandished a four-inch knife and attempted the kidnap the child. Satyavathi tried to fight Yandamuri. She was stabbed at least three times in the throat, hard enough for the knife to strike the bone. In an attempt to silence the baby, Yandamuri stuffed a handkerchief in her mouth. When that did not work, he tied a cloth around Saanvi’s head to keep the handkerchief from falling out.
Yandamuri took a suitcase from the closet, collected gold jewelry, including some that Satyavathi was wearing, and placed it inside the suitcase. He also placed the baby inside the suitcase. Ultimately, he left Saanvi inside the men’s sauna at the Marquis Apartments.
Yandamuri returned to his apartment, where he showered and changed. Afterwards, he threw some of the stolen jewelry into the river and hid the rest behind a vending machine in his office building.
Satyavathi’s body was discovered when the parents returned home to check on their child after not being able to get in contact. It was then that they also discovered their child was missing. Police discovered ransom notes in the apartment, demanding $50,000 in cash in exchange for the return of the child. Saanvi’s mother, under police guidance, followed the instructions provided and attempted to pay the ransom, however the kidnapper never arrived at the designated meeting point.
With the help of the parents, they were able to create a list of those who may have written the note, based on the informal and personal way the parents were addressed in the note. Yandamuri voluntarily met with police on October 25, 2012, while the baby remained missing.
During the police interview, which lasted several hours, Yandamuri gave several, non-incriminating statements to the police and consented to a variety of searches. Police discovered that there were inconsistencies between Yandamuri’s account of his actions during the day of the kidnapping and his wife’s account. Eventually, over 12 hours after the interview first began, Yandamuri confessed to murdering Satyavathi and to kidnapping and murdering and Saanvi. He told police where the baby was located, along with the knife he used during the crime, the stolen jewelry, the suitcase, and the clothing he wore.
A few days later, Yandamuri tried to say that he was forced to participate in the kidnapping by two other men. He alleged that he only confessed to the crime in order to keep his wife safe. During their investigation, it was discovered that Yandamuri had lost a large amount of money gambling and had borrowed money from friends in order to obtain visas for his visiting in-laws.
Yandamuri was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnappign, burglary, robbery, and abuse of corpse. Yandamuri represented himself during his trial.
Raghunandan Yandamuri’s notice of execution was issued by Department of Corrections Secretary John Wentzel, as Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has refused to sign any execution warrants. If the Governor does not sign an execution notice within a specified time frame, state law requires the corrections secretary to issue the execution notice.
On Friday, February 13, 2015, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced a moratorium on executions in the state, until he receives and reviews a report on capital punishment in the state, a report which was ordered in 2011. In his announcement, he called the death penalty in Pennsylvania a "flawed system," "ineffective," "unjust," and "expensive." Read more about the announcement here.
Please pray for peace for the family of Satyavathi and Saanvi. Please pray for strength for the family of Raghunandan. Please pray that Raghunandan will come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.