Mourners bid farewell to young victim of King of Prussia killing

   Photos of Saanvi Venna line the funeral home where a viewing was held for the 10-month-old girl slain last week along with her grandmother. A 26-year-old neighbor is charged in connection with the killings.
   Photos of Saanvi Venna line the funeral home where a viewing was held for the 10-month-old girl slain last week along with her grandmother. A 26-year-old neighbor is charged in connection with the killings. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 30, 2012

With messages of hope and gratitude, friends and family bid a tearful farewell Sunday to Saanvi Venna, the baby girl who was abducted and killed, along with her grandmother, last week in King of Prussia.

At a viewing in East Norriton, mourners clasped hands and placed pink and red rose petals atop the tiny, closed white casket. They removed their shoes to protect the sanctity of their surroundings and to create the type of intimate space 10-month-old Saanvi would have known at home.

"I am a proud father to have a daughter like Saanvi," Venkata Konda "Siva" Venna said at the pulpit. He urged the community not to let the violent episode that took the lives of his daughter and mother poison their faith in humanity.

"Don't lose your hearts," he said. "People are good."

Recent pictures of Saanvi, wearing a fancy autumnal dress, flashed on a TV outside the viewing room. Her huge brown eyes pierced every image, seeming curious and intense.

Saanvi's body was discovered Thursday morning in an unused basement sauna at the Marquis Apartments, where she lived with her father and mother, Chenchu "Latha" Punuru. Her grandmother, Satayrathi Venna, 61, was visiting from India and was babysitting when the infant was abducted Monday.

Satayrathi Venna was found with her throat slashed and is said to have died trying to protect her granddaughter.

Charged with their homicides is Raghunandan "Raghu" Yandamuri, 26, who lives in another building of the Marquis Apartments complex. Yandamuri was having financial problems and intended to use the child to extract a $50,000 ransom from her family, authorities said.

He had stuffed a handkerchief in Saanvi's mouth to stop her from crying, arrest documents said. He then put the child in a suitcase, the document said, before abandoning her in the basement.

Ravi Potluri, president of the Telugu Association of Greater Delaware Valley, which has organized vigils and raised money for a reward, said the most heartbreaking aspect of the killings was that the alleged killer was a friend of the Venna family. "He had lunch with them a day earlier, just on Sunday," Potluri said.

Saanvi's parents, he said, are struggling with indescribable pain. "I don't know how many days, even years it will take for them to come to a normal life," he said.

Several relatives, including Saanvi's father, thanked law enforcement, reporters, and the thousands of strangers who have supported the family.

"When some purity goes away from us, we feel that in our heart. That is what I see here. Not only the family, but all of us," said one speaker who did not give his name. "And not just the Indian community, but you see postings on the Web - thousands and thousands of postings by all Americans, Mexicans, any humans."

After losing Saanvi, the mourners have found solace in their cultural values of forgiveness, ahimsa (nonviolence) and reincarnation.

"There was such a bonding," Ram Reddy, a relative, said of grandmother and granddaughter. "They'll be back. We'll be waiting for them, and until then we will have prayers."

"In the last week, I was hearing one word from everyone. And that word was hope - hope, hope, hope. We had hope that she would come back to us, and we still have hope that she will come back to us," said Prasad Sanikommu, a cousin of Saanvi's father's. "And we still have hope that God will give us enough moral strength to support the family of the person who did this. To give us enough moral strength to forgive him."

Community leaders, led by the Telugu group, said their priority now was to help the family recover and to get help for troubled individuals such as Yandamuri.

"As a community we should identify the people who have issues and bring them to counseling, or to help, so another Saanvi will not happen," Potluri said.

Ujwala Dixit, a psychiatrist who attends the same temple as the Venna family, said it was important that people in the Indian community and beyond understand and recognize that trauma can lead to extreme behavior.

"Trauma is real. Trauma can happen to anyone, does not discriminate," she said at the viewing. "And it can get trapped and be expressed many years later."

Akkaraju Sarma, a leader in the Telugu community, urged anyone struggling with feelings of desperation to seek support. "We are a community, we are open and we are helping each other," he said. "Please reach us out, don't sit and brood."

Saanvi was buried Sunday afternoon in a private ceremony at Riverside Cemetery.

Contact Jessica Parks at 610-313-8117 or

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