Venkatesh* arrived at the premises of the District Court Complex in Telangana's Nalgonda town at around 10 am on Thursday with a few relatives and other locals from his native Hajipur village.
"It has been 10 months since I lost my daughter. We will go back only with a verdict that the person responsible for it is going to hang," he said.
In April last year, the Bommalaramaram police had arrested Marri Srinivas Reddy, a local lift mechanic from the village. They said that he had killed at least three minors, aged 11, 14 and 17 over a span of four years.
Venkatesh's daughter was one of them. It was her disappearance that led the police to Srinivas and uncovered the serial killer's tracks. He had dumped all three bodies in two agricultural wells near Hajipur. Only skeletal remains were found of a 11-year-old girl from Maisireddypalli village who had gone missing since 2015, when she had visited Hajipur to meet her aunt.
On Thursday morning, security was beefed up at the court complex as residents from Hajipur and mediapersons poured in. Though the verdict was delivered in less than a year, for the locals of Hajipur, it had been long enough.
"We wanted to hear those words on January 27 during the last hearing itself, but the verdict got deferred. Today has to be the day. We want justice now," a relative of a victim, who had gone missing in 2015, told TNM ahead of the judgement.
Besides the death penalties, Srinivas was given two sentences of 20 years of rigourous imprisonment for rape, 10 years of rigoruous imprisonment for kidnapping and another 7 years for causing disapperance of evidence.
Venkatesh, his voice choking as he spoke to several TV channels who vied for a byte, said, "Nothing can bring my daughter back. It shouldn't happen to any other child. The only solution is to hang him."
Srinivas was brought to the court from the Nalgonda District Jail where he was lodged at around 10.40 am amid tight security. As he was taken into a room adjoining the court hall, a large crowd gathered outside hoping that the judgement would be delivered soon.
Minutes after the clock struck 2 pm, Marri Srinivas Reddy was summoned and ushered into the court hall by the police. A large crowd crammed itself by the door, trying to hear the proceedings.
Justice Natha Reddy asked Srinivas if he had a final statement to make before the judgement. Srinivas repeated his earlier claim that he was framed by the police.
The court observed that there were several discrepancies in his defence and as the evidence submitted by the police also pointed to his involvement in the crimes, it was ruling in the prosecution's favour.
Declaring him guilty, the court said that the quantum of punishment would be announced post-lunch.
The court hall was full by 3 pm. Advocates, members of the Bar, mediapersons, police, activists and Hajipur residents including Venkatesh were present. What followed was a long three-hour wait.
Rachakonda Commissioner Mahesh Bhagwat under whose jurisdiction the case was investigated, arrived in the court hall at around 5 pm and was seated close to the judge's chair.
At 6 20 pm, Justice Natha Reddy emerged from his chambers. Everyone stood and moved closer to the front to hear the verdict. Venkatesh was among them.
The moment the judge announced the death penalty, a member of the Nalgonda Bar District Bar Association, which had passed a resolution not to represent Srinivas, saw it fit to thump a table in delight. He was quickly hushed by others in the courtroom.
Right across the room from him, Venkatesh's eyes turned moist. These were the words he was waiting to hear.
A few metres ahead of Venkatesh, Srinivas stood still. The 30-year-old's palms were folded from the moment he had been summoned and he looked intently at the judge, as the verdict was read out in English and explained to him in Telugu.
After the verdict, Srinivas was taken away while Bhagwat met with the judge, Venkatesh and his relative. Both of them broke down as they repeatedly thanked the judge.
"We managed to get a verdict in our favour as DNA tests of semen samples and the phone location of the accused corroborated our version of events. 101 eye witnesses also testified," Special Public Prosecutor Chandrashekar told reporters.
An appeal can now be filed against the verdict in the High Court.
Another round of TV channels competing for a byte awaited Venkatesh as he stepped out of court.
"It is good news. He didn't escape. People can believe that there is still justice. We only wish now that he is hanged soon," he said, his voice shaking.