Baby’s abduction, grandmother’s killing rattle neighbors

Posted: October 24, 2012

The Marquis apartment complex in King of Prussia was draped with yellow crime-scene tape Tuesday as firefighters drained the pool, police academy cadets swept lawns and drainage ditches, and law enforcement authorities continued looking into the abduction of a 10-month-old girl and the slaying of her grandmother.

Local, state, and federal authorities are jointly investigating the abduction of the girl, Saanvi Venna, and the killing of her grandmother, Satayvathi Venna, 61.

Authorities gave few details of either crime Tuesday, citing concern for the baby's safety. A news release said: "Investigators are attempting to identify any person with a motive to harm any member of the Venna family."

Police say they believe the child was taken Monday between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. They got a call to go to the sixth-floor apartment in the C building, and when they arrived about 1:15 p.m., they found Satayvathi Venna's body. An autopsy was being done Tuesday.

Family members were with Upper Merion police much of Tuesday, unable to keep from getting choked up when asked about the elder Venna's death and the baby's disappearance.

"We want help to bring the girl back," said Ram Venna, Saanvi's uncle. "We still have hope."

He had no idea why the family was targeted, he said.

In a televised news conference late Monday, Saanvi's father, Venkata Konda Siva Venna, made a brief, emotional plea, asking, "If someone finds my baby, could you please bring my baby back?"

A statement from Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, Upper Merion Police Chief Thomas Nolan, and FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Joseph Bushner said that Venkata Venna; his mother, Satayvathi Venna; the baby; and the baby's mother, Chenchu Latha Punuru, were living together in the Marquis apartment.

The grandmother had arrived from India for a visit in July and was scheduled to return home in January. The child's parents moved to King of Prussia in 2012 after emigrating from India in 2007. Before coming to King of Prussia, they lived in San Antonio, Texas; Troy, Mich.; and Cleveland, authorities said.

Residents of the Marquis complex were trying Tuesday to understand how such horrible crimes could happen so close to home.

Veronica Nava, 36, lives in the complex's A building and was walking outside with one of her two children. She is pregnant with a third. Nava learned of the incident about 2 p.m. Monday while doing laundry.

"You always fear the worst," she said. "A homicide is a big shock."

"I feel bad . . . for the guy who is looking for his daughter," said resident Tanya Bazylskiy, 37, who lives in the C building. She said the apartment had many young professionals and families living there, "good neighbors."

Many older grandparents watch their grandchildren at the complex, Bazylskiy said.

Mary Williams, 49, lives on the fifth floor of building C, just below where the grandmother was killed. She said she was at her apartment all day Monday. She and neighbors she had spoken to did not hear fighting or violence of any kind, Williams said.

But "each floor is kind of isolated," she said, and the walls are thick enough to block noise in other apartments.

Jasbir Singh's store, the Royal India Spice Market, is on West DeKalb Pike in King of Prussia, one block from the Marquis.

"So many in the Indian community live there," Singh said, and work at technology companies in the area and at the King of Prussia mall.

Singh doesn't know the Venna family but says some of his customers who came in Tuesday live in the same apartment complex and talked about Monday's sad events.

"People come in here, they say: 'Very bad' - but nobody knows what happened."

The Marquis complex has five buildings. Tenants say the rent there is affordable, with a three-bedroom apartment costing $1,200 a month. The complex was built in the 1950s and needs updating, tenants said.

A spokeswoman for Marquis Property Management issued a statement Monday saying: "We are not at liberty to discuss the situation. We are cooperating with authorities during their investigation."

Police ask that anyone with information call 610-265-3232.


Contact Carolyn Davis

at 610-313-8109, cdavis@phillynews.com, or @carolyntweets on Twitter.

Inquirer staff writers Jennifer Lin and Jeremy Roebuck contributed to this article.

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