New twist in murder case spurs confusion

Nearly 40 people packed a conference room to ask questions about the case.


Robert Rush, right, the attorney for Praveen Vedam, addresses questions as Arun Someshwar, center, and Shaheda Qaiyumi listen, during a meeting at the India Cultural & Education Center on Sunday.

DAVID MASSEY/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, January 24, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 24, 2005 at 1:52 a.m.
After what they thought would be the final chapter in a yearlong saga, members of the Indian community expressed concern over the second indictment of University of Florida graduate student Praveen Vedam at a meeting Sunday at the India Cultural and Education Center.
Nearly 40 people packed a conference room in the center to ask questions and get answers from Robert Rush, Vedam's attorney. Rush said that his client was "disappointed" and "distressed" about the new developments.
"It's been a long year," Rush said at the meeting. "To get to the point of having the case dismissed and then for this to happen when the facts point to someone other than Praveen is disappointing."
A grand jury indicted Vedam, 26, Thursday for the second time on a first-degree murder charge in the Jan. 4, 2004, stabbing death of 24-year-old UF graduate assistant Sudheer Reddy Satti.
Circuit Judge Robert Cates dismissed charges against Vedam in December, citing insufficient evidence. Vedam, who is from India, returned to that country after the case was dropped last month to visit his father who is hospitalized, Rush said.
Rush said he intends to file a motion to dismiss the case and that he does not know of any new evidence. He also said Vedam wants to come back and "clear his name."
Members of the Indian community who have been following the case said they are disappointed with the handling of the investigation by the University of Florida Police Department and the State Attorney's Office. Arun Someshwar, organizer of the meeting, said the community just wants to find out the truth about what happened to Satti.
"We feel for Satti's family," Someshwar said, "but we also feel for Vedam. The state clearly botched their case. We're not going to sleep on this until we know what happened."
Uma Sethuram, cultural chair at the center, said many people were happy when the charges were dismissed against Vedam.
"We were happy, but now we feel like the police are not pursuing other leads," Sethuram said. "We don't feel like they have the right person."
Rush said police did not conduct a thorough enough investigation into leads involving an escort service Satti allegedly contacted the night he was murdered. But when asked how and when the laptop computer case found with drops of Satti's blood on it came into Vedam's possession, Rush said he would not comment.
State Attorney Bill Cervone said Sunday that he is willing to meet with members of the Indian community and discuss what details he can with them, but that his focus is on prosecuting Satti's killer. "I get frustrated with all of this concern with everyone other than the murder victim," Cervone said in a phone interview from his home. "The poor man was stabbed 30 times and all these theories Rush has mentioned have been looked at by law enforcement and the evidence has still led this second grand jury to indict Vedam again."
Cervone said that when and if Vedam is found in India, his office will extradite him from India and pursue its case.
Cervone said he could not disclose the state's new evidence and that law enforcement conducted a very thorough and complete investigation in the case.
Deborah Ball can be reached at (352) 374-5036 or balld@gvillesun.com.

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