NORRISTOWN, Pa., Oct. 9 (UPI) -- A Philadelphia-area man was convicted Thursday of killing a 10-month-old baby and her grandmother in what prosecutors said was a botched kidnap-for-ransom plan.
Raghunandan Yandamuri, 28, an immigrant from India, could receive a death sentence after being found guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping. A Montgomery County judge moved immediately to the penalty phase, with Yandamuri's mother taking the stand in an effort to convince jurors to spare her son's life.
Yandamuri represented himself during the trial. He also testified, saying the kidnapping was the work of two strange men who forced him to go along with it.
"This is a very terrible thing," he told the jury in his closing argument Wednesday. "Whoever did it, they should be given very big punishment."
The baby, Saanvi Venna, and Satyavathi Venna, 61, were killed in October 2012. First Assistant District Attorney Richard Steele said that Yandamuri, after losing $20,000 at a local casino, decided to kidnap Saanvi to pay his gambling debts.
Yandamuri, who knew the family and had been in their apartment in King of Prussia before, stabbed the older woman because she would have been able to identify him, Steele said.
The prosecutor said Yandamuri's story of being forced into the kidnapping at gunpoint was a fiction.
"There's simply no evidence of anybody forcing him to do any of this," Steele said.