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Mandanapu to Serve 55 Years

Judge upholds jury recommendation for Praveen Mandanapu's murder of his wife.

A judge determined Nov. 30 that Praveen Mandanapu will serve the entire sentence recommended by the jury at the end of his August trial. After the week-long trial, a jury found Mandanapu guilty of first-degree murder and dismemberment of his wife, Divya, which occurred in June 2004. The jury recommended Mandanapu, 34, serve 55 years in prison. First-degree murder carries a possible sentence of 20 years to life. Virginia does not allow parole for felony convictions.

According to testimony, Praveen Mandanapu put her head and torso in a suitcase and tossed them into a Dumpster in South Riding. Divya Mandanapu's body parts were first discovered June 14, 2004, by a groundskeeper at The Abbey apartment complex.

The bags with Divya Mandanapu's legs and arms, which were thrown in a Dumpster at Shenandoah Crossing in Fairfax County where the couple once lived, were never recovered. The cleaver Praveen Mandanapu used to dismember his wife was also never recovered.

JUDGE BURKE F. McCahill also sentenced Mandanapu to three years of post-release supervision, but suspended that portion of the sentence. Under Virginia law, McCahill could only reduce the sentence recommended by jury.

"In life, it is true, people are often judged by their last act," McCahill said. "That is what they are remembered for."

Defense attorney James Connell III argued at sentencing that Mandanapu was a law-abiding citizen, who was an upstanding member of the community before his wife's death. Connell called Mandanapu's actions an "aberration."

"It just doesn't make sense," he said.

Commonwealth's Attorney James Plowman said that the murder of Divya Mandanapu was more than an aberration.

"You don't just jump from being a peaceful, law-abiding person to a grisly murderer," he said.

MANDANAPU chose not to address the court during his sentencing, but the defense did file a motion for a new trial, based on information learned after the jury's verdict. A man who worked with Praveen Mandanapu at Pulsecom testified that he saw Mandanapu at the office with cleaning supplies the weekend his wife was murdered. However, after the trial, the defense discovered there was no record of the employee using his passcard to enter Pulsecom that weekend.

"That evidence would have impeached his testimony," Connell said.

Records did show, however, that both men were at Pulsecom Monday, July 14, 2004.

After deliberating Thursday morning, McCahill ruled that, while the information was material to the case, there was no evidence that it would have resulted in a different verdict.

"This evidence does not affirm [that employee] wasn't present at Pulsecom on that day," he said. "There is no evidence on how the system there works or whether an individual could enter on someone else's pass."

McCahill added that he did not see any evidence that the prosecution knowingly supported perjury or that they did not disclose important evidence to the defense.

The judge also said that, with the discovery of Praveen Mandanapu in Clarke County and the discovery of Divya Mandanapu's body, the investigators were working backwards to figure out the details of the case.

"The investigators were under clear apprehension as to when the event occurred," McCahill said.

WHILE NO MEMBERS of Divya Mandanapu or Praveen Mandanapu's families were in court during the sentencing, Plowman did read a statement from Divya Mandanapu's mother, who still resides in India.

"No words, no tears can express how much we love her and how much we miss her," Plowman read. "I am now a dead person with life."

Plowman told McCahill that the punishment should not only be based on the crime, but based on what is just for the victim's family.

Following McCahill's sentence, Connell told the court that he would not be representing Mandanapu during his appeal and asked the court to appoint Mandanapu new representation. To allow his new lawyer time to become familiar with the case, Mandanapu will have 60 days in which to file an appeal.