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Nicknames nail baby killer

Hyderabad/Washington, Oct. 27: Raghunandan Yandamuri, desperate for money he needed to pay off gambling debts, hatched a plan to kidnap a family friend’s 10-month-old baby for a ransom of $50,000.

Police said the baby, Saanvi Venna, died after the software engineer from Andhra Pradesh stuffed a handkerchief into her mouth to make her stop crying and wrapped a bath towel around her head to hold the handkerchief in place. He then put her inside a suitcase before dumping the body.

Saanvi’s 61-year-old grandmother, Satyavathi Venna, whose body was found at an apartment complex in Pennsylvania on October 22, died of knife injuries suffered while resisting the kidnap.

Raghunandan, 26, returned to help the family organise a vigil for the baby and printed “missing child” posters for distribution in the community.

The engineer from Guntur, who used to live in the same complex, was produced in court after the police recovered Saanvi’s body yesterday from the men’s locker room of the gymnasium in the complex.

Police sources said the nicknames of Saanvi’s parents, Venkata Venna and Chenchu Latha Punuru, used in the ransom note gave away Raghunandan.

The note asked that “Lata” deliver the money. Investigators figured out that “Lata” was a name only close friends knew Chenchu by. In their affidavit, the police said the first word in the ransom note was “Shiva”, as Venkata was known among “some of his close friends and family members”.

Chenchu and Venkata were asked to list people familiar with the names “Shiva” and “Lata”. Among the names they provided was “Ragu”, or Raghunandan, who had filed for bankruptcy this year.

The police also said Raghunandan had tried to get his wife to turn him in so that she could get the $50,000 reward announced for information on the baby. He needed the money to pay off gambling bosses.

In Hyderabad, Venkata’s brother Madhukar waited for his mother Satyavathi’s body to arrive. “The Telugu Association of North America made arrangements for her body to be sent,” he said. “We are sad a grandmother’s journey to care for her granddaughter ended like this,” TANA president Thotakura Prasad said.