- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A man convicted of killing a baby and her grandmother in what prosecutors described as a kidnapping plot gone wrong said Friday that he would rather accept the death penalty than sit through arguments over his fate.

A Montgomery County jury heard arguments Friday on whether 27-year-old Raghunandan Yandamuri should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. But before jurors were brought in, he told Judge Steven O’Neill that he wanted no part in the proceedings.

“I don’t want this hearing,” Yandamuri quietly told the judge, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I would rather take the death penalty.” After consulting with his court-appointed attorney at the judge’s urging, however, he agreed to be present for the hearing and allow it to move forward.

Jurors on Thursday convicted him of first-degree murder in the October 2012 slayings of 10-month-old Saanvi Venna and 61-year-old Satayrathi Venna. Prosecutors said he hoped to gain ransom to pay gambling debts.

Yandamuri told the judge Friday that he wanted to continue representing himself but was persuaded to let an attorney argue on his behalf. Acting as his own attorney during the trial, he argued that two other men forced him at gunpoint to lead them to the house and alleged he was pressured into confessing.

Prosecutors said Yandamuri hatched the kidnapping plot to pay gambling debts after losing at least $15,000 at a casino near his office. He told investigators that he panicked after the grandmother, who had opened her family’s apartment door to him, was killed in a struggle over a kitchen knife he had carried.

He told investigators that he accidentally dropped the baby, put a handkerchief over her mouth to quiet her and tied a towel around her head, then left her in a trash-strewn, unused sauna in a basement fitness center. He said he returned hours later with milk for her, but she was unconscious.

Yandamuri knew the baby’s parents from his King of Prussia apartment complex. Like him, they were young technology professionals from India. He had gone to a birthday party for the baby’s mother, met the visiting grandmother and used family nicknames in a ransom note demanding $50,000, authorities said.

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