Montco judge rejects claim that confession was coerced

Raghunandan Yandamuri , whose trial has been delayed in the October 2012 double homicide, lived in the same apartment complex where the victims were found. MATT ROURKE / AP
Raghunandan Yandamuri , whose trial has been delayed in the October 2012 double homicide, lived in the same apartment complex where the victims were found. MATT ROURKE / AP
Raghunandan Yandamuri is escorted from a Montgomery County district court after a preliminary hearing Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, in Bridgeport, Pa. Investigators said Yandamuri killed 10-month-old Saanvi Venna and her grandmother Satyavathi Venna in a botched ransom kidnapping. He is being held without bail on murder, kidnapping and other charges. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)GALLERY: Raghunandan Yandamuri is escorted from a Montgomery County… (AP )
Posted: April 19, 2014

NORRISTOWN Montgomery County prosecutors will be allowed to present written and video-recorded confessions in the trial of a man accused of killing a grandmother and a baby in King of Prussia.

Raghunandan Yandamuri, 28, is accused of killing 61-year-old Satyavathi Venna and 10-month-old Saanvi Venna in a botched ransom attempt in October 2012.

County Court Judge Steven T. O'Neill rejected Yandamuri's claims that the confessions were coerced after 17 hours of questioning.

It came down to the word of a county detective against the word of Yandamuri, O'Neill said, adding: "I find Detective Bradbury's testimony to be completely credible."

O'Neill ruled on that and several other pretrial motions in a three-hour hearing Thursday.

The trial had been set to start May 5, but O'Neill agreed to delay the proceedings while the defense waits for visas to allow Yandamuri's mother and brother to come from India.

Defense attorney Stephen G. Heckman said the relatives would be crucial character witnesses if the trial gets to the penalty phase, where Yandamuri could face a death sentence.

Unlike previous hearings - at which Yandamuri has attempted to dismiss his attorneys, interrupted the proceedings, and been reprimanded by the judge - Yandamuri sat quietly Thursday, occasionally writing notes or whispering to his attorney.

O'Neill also weighed arguments about whether Yandamuri's history of gambling can be used at trial.

Yandamuri had filed for bankruptcy in Nevada to resolve about $32,000 in casino debts from 2011, Heckman said.

He continued to gamble at Valley Forge Casino. Three days after the grandmother's slaying - before the baby's body had been found - detectives found Yandamuri at a blackjack table and took him in for questioning.

Prosecutors said his gambling losses would be presented as a motive for the alleged ransom attempt.

O'Neill said he would rule on that evidence at a later date.

Venna was visiting from India and babysitting her granddaughter when the kidnapping occurred. She was found stabbed to death in her son's home at the Marquis Apartments in King of Prussia.

Authorities and relatives searched for Saanvi for four days before finding her body in the basement of the apartment complex.

Yandamuri lived in the same complex and was a friend of the family, prosecutors have said.


jparks@philly.com

610-313-8117 @JS_Parks

www.inquirer.com/MontcoMemo

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