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|April 1, 2000|
Judge orders preservation of dead teenager's foetus tissue
J M Shenoy
A federal judge ordered on Friday that the tissue and fluid samples from the foetus of the 17-year-old girl who died in a carbon monoxide accident should be preserved. The girl died in November, a few months after she was allegedly smuggled from India along with her younger sister by a Berkeley, California, landlord who reportedly had sex with both of them.
"It is hereby ordered that all tissue samples and bodily fluids, including any embryo or foetus and any material from an embryo or foetus, shall be preserved and that no test or other procedure that detracts from the integrity of the material shall be conducted unless by written agreement of the United States, the Berkeley police department, and the defendants, or unless ordered by the court," Judge Saundra Armstrong wrote.
Lakireddy Bali Reddy, 62, who is out on a $10 million bail, has denied the charges. His son, Vijaykumar Balireddy, who is free on a $500,000 bail, is charged, among other things, with helping to smuggle the girls by getting a man and woman to pose as their parents. The man came to America posing as a computer programmer, but was working as a kitchen hand in one of Reddy's restaurants when the death occurred.
The girl, first identified as Sitha Vemireddy, and her younger sister were found unconscious in their one-bedroom apartment in downtown Berkeley due to carbon monoxide fumes from a faulty wall heater.
The older girl was pronounced dead at Alta Bates Medical Center. Her sister survived and is now in the protective custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Women's groups across the US are pleading with the authorities that she be allowed to stay back in America and undergo therapy.
An autopsy later revealed that the older girl was pregnant when she died. Lawyers for Reddy and his son have demanded a DNA examination and have said that the tests will prove that their clients did not have sex with the dead girl. They did not elaborate.
Berkeley police investigators have not ordered any tests of the samples, Berkeley police Captain Bobby Miller told reporters. He did not specify what tests the federal agencies might order.
"But that doesn't preclude us from any testing in the future," he said. As for DNA testing, he told reporters: "It's quite expensive, but if it's believed that it can help solve a case or help resolve an investigation, sure, we won't hesitate to do it."
The man who allegedly brought in the girls is identified as Venkateswara Vemireddy. He pleaded innocent last week in federal court to conspiring to smuggle in illegal immigrants. He was released to a halfway house on a $50,000 bond. He has been assigned a public defender. It is not known whether the Reddy family will get him a private lawyer.
According to court papers, Reddy made a deal with an impoverished Vemireddy to pay off his debt in India and also pay for air tickets to the United States for him and his sister. In return, Vemireddy agreed to pose as the father of the two girls and bring them into the United States. The woman who posed as Vemireddy's wife is actually his sister, according to the police. She is in police protection custody.
Vemireddy and Lakireddy's next federal court hearing is set for April 11.
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