Indian citizen to be executed in US for killing grandmother and baby

PHILADELPHIA (REUTERS) - An Indian national convicted of killing a 10-month-old girl and her grandmother in a kidnapping for ransom gone awry has been sentenced to death in Pennsylvania.

The jury's decision to hand down the death penalty on Tuesday night after convicting Raghunandan Yandamuri, 28, of two counts of first-degree murder means he is the only citizen of India on death row in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre, a nonprofit group that monitors capital punishment.

The jury in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania deliberated for about four hours before deciding unanimously that Yandamuri should be executed for the deaths of Saanvi Venna and her grandmother Satyavathi Venna, 61.

Prosecutors say Yandamuri, who worked for a division of eBay in the Philadelphia suburbs, killed the baby, Saanvi Venna, and her grandmother Satyavathi Venna, 61, in October 2012 as part of a kidnapping scheme to cover gambling losses at a nearby casino.

He was a family friend to the victims and lived in the same apartment complex.

Yandamuri initially confessed to the murders, and video released by investigators showed him re-enacting the crime with police.

He later recanted and represented himself at trial.

During rambling and at times bizarre testimony, he claimed investigators had pressured him into a confession by promising to take care of his wife.

"I asked, 'Can I bring my wife to prison?' I was so stupid," Yandamuri told the jury.

He also blamed the murders on two men named Matt and Josh whose last names he said he did not know and who he could only vaguely describe.

It could be years before Yandamuri is executed.

Susan McNaughton, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, said on Wednesday that death sentence cases are typically appealed. After that, Yandamuri would be transferred to a state prison for psychological testing and assessment.

He will then be transferred again to one of two state prisons that house condemned prisoners. In such capital case units, inmates are housed in cells for 22 hours per day and forbidden physical contact with visitors.

Pennsylvania last executed an inmate in 1999. There are 184 inmates on death row in the state, with the longest held being sentenced three decades ago.

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