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Pa. man convicted of killing baby girl, grandmother

NORRISTOWN, Pa. - A Pennsylvania man was found guilty Thursday of murdering a 10-month-old girl and her grandmother in what prosecutors described as a kidnapping plot gone wrong, reports CBS Philadelphia.

Ragunandan Yandamuri, 27, of Upper Merion, showed no emotion upon hearing the verdict.

Yandamuri, who represented himself during his trial, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the 2012 deaths of Saanvi Venna and her grandmother Satayrathi Venna.

Prosecutors argued Yandamuri hatched the kidnapping plot to pay for a gambling habit. They said he was mired in gambling debts and told police he committed the crime after losing at least $15,000 at a casino near his office.

He told investigators 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 police he accidentally dropped the baby, put a handkerchief over her mouth to quiet her and tied a towel around her head. He said he then left the baby - with her dark hair, huge dark eyes and white dress - in a trash-strewn, unused sauna in a basement fitness center and when he returned hours later with milk for her 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, had met the visiting grandmother and used family nicknames in a ransom note demanding $50,000, authorities said.

"They both are working, so I thought maybe they have some money," Yandamuri told police in a videotaped statement played at a preliminary hearing. "My intention was not to kill anyone or not to harm anyone. I only tried to kidnap the baby."

At trial, though, Yandamuri argued two other men forced him at gunpoint to help and said he was pressured into confessing.

Evidence against him included DNA and the confession, which police say led to the baby's body.

The same jury that convicted Yandamuri will now decide whether he should be sentenced to death or life behind bars, reports CBS Philly.

The same jury will now decide whether Yandamuri will get the death penalty or life behind bars, according to the station.

Henry Hilles, an attorney who will represent Yandamuri during the penalty phase of the trial, said his client was stunned at the guilty verdicts.

"He thought he was going to have a different verdict, whether or not that seems plausible to court observers is debatable," Hilles said, according to the station.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Kevin Steele said the guilty verdicts are the first step to bringing some closure to the victims' family.

"Justice was done today. This is a case that we've said from the beginning had a mountain of evidence," Steele said.

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