A 20-year-old Indian-origin student was found dead in his dormitory at Purdue University in the US state of Indiana, and his Korean roommate, accused of killing him, was taken into custody on Wednesday, 5 October, the police said.
Varun Manish Chheda, a data science senior from Indianapolis, was found dead in McCutcheon Hall on the western edge of the university campus, NBC reported.
Ji Min “Jimmy” Sha, a junior cybersecurity major and international student from Korea, called 911 around 12:45 am on Wednesday to alert police about the death, Purdue University Police Chief Lesley Wiete said.
Chheda died of “multiple sharp force traumatic injuries” and the manner of death was a homicide, preliminary autopsy results said. The coroner’s office said final autopsy reports are pending toxicology reports.
While details of the 911 call weren’t disclosed, authorities said that the incident took place on the first floor of Purdue University's McCutcheon Hall.
Sha was taken into the Tippecanoe County Jail on Wednesday afternoon on charges of murder, NBC reported. The police did not mention the presence of a motive yet, and did not shed light on the weapon used during the attack either.
Police chief Wiete said that the 911 call came from the room, where only Chheda and Sha were present, the report said.
Who Was Varun Chheda?
Arunabh Sinha, who went to school with Chheda for 12 years, said that he remembers Chheda as “a really smart guy, always top of his class, top of the chess club, science bowl team.”
He added that not only was Varun a very bright student, he was also “really humble about it.”
He “always did things the right way, he refused to take short cuts,” Sinha said.
Chheda was a semifinalist in the National Merit Scholarship programme and a candidate for the US Presidential Scholars programme in 2020, a university Facebook page said.
"He was unbelievably good at everything he did," a member of the Purdue Exponent, the university’s news agency, who knew Chheda said. "I didn't even process it when I saw his name until I said it out loud. I just had a flashback to science bowl in middle school."
"I just remembered his (family) used to come to all of his tournaments," he said, choking up. "He was really, really good at it − like unbelievably good. He was one of the smartest people I knew.”
"(Chheda) was a straight shooter," senior Sumeeth Guda said, who took a class with Chheda, said. "
“(He was) a good person and a really good student, and it showed,” Guda, a mathematics and science student, said.
He described Chheda as a designer person and a hard worker, giving him praise for his ability to work in a team.
Friends 'Heard' Attack on Chheda
Arunabh Sinha, Chheda’s childhood friend said that Chheda was gaming and speaking to his friends through Discord, an instant messaging social platform on Tuesday night when they heard sudden screaming on the call.
While Sinha was not playing games with his friends that night, his friends told him that they heard the attack on Chheda and didn’t know what happened, NBC reported. His friends woke up on Wednesday morning to the news of his death.
While being taken insiders, a reporter asks him, “Can you tell us why you did it?”
After pausing for a few seconds, Sha says, "I love my family.” He subsequently repeated himself.
The police believe that the incident was “unprovoked and senseless,” adding that neither Chheda or Sha were asleep
University President Mitch Daniels said that Varun Chheda’s death was “as tragic an event as we can imagine happening on our campus” and added that their “our hearts and thoughts go out to all of those affected by this terrible event.”
Daniels, reassuring that the university campus is a safe area, said, “Compared with cities of Purdue’s population (approximately 60,000 in all), we experience a tiny fraction of violent and property crime that occurs elsewhere.”
"A death on our campus and among our Purdue family affects each of us deeply."
After Chheda's death, school officials said there was no threat to the community.
"I write to let you know that early this morning, one of our students was killed in his residence hall room. The suspect, the victim's roommate, called police to report the incident and is in custody," the University President said in a statement.
“We do not have all the details yet, he added and said that Purdue University Police Department is conducting a thorough investigation of this incident so that they can learn more about what transpired,” the statement added.
(With inputs from NBC, PTI, and Purdue Exponent)