Purdue University student killed at dorm; roommate in custody

U.S.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WXIN) — A Purdue University student is dead and another is in custody after a homicide at a dorm, authorities said.

A university spokesperson confirmed a homicide occurred in McCutcheon Hall on the western edge of campus overnight. Police received a call around 12:44 a.m., and according to Purdue officials, it was the suspect who made the call.

The Tippecanoe County Coroner’s Office identified the victim as Varun Manish Chheda, 20, from Indianapolis. Chheda, a senior in data science, was stabbed to death. He was a little more than a month away from turning 21.

An autopsy conducted Wednesday found he died from “multiple sharp force traumatic injuries,” according to the Tippecanoe County Coroner’s Office.

The suspect was identified as 22-year-old Ji Min Sha. He was taken into custody and is facing a preliminary charge of murder. Purdue Police Chief Lesley Wiete identified him as an international student from Korea. Sha is a junior in cyber security.

A Purdue spokesperson confirmed Chheda and Sha were roommates.

Wiete said she believes the attack was “unprovoked” and “senseless.”

The victim was a Park Tudor School graduate. Park Tudor, a private K-12 school on the north side of Indianapolis, released a statement on his death.

The entire Park Tudor community is incredibly saddened by the tragic loss of Varun Chheda, Park Tudor class of 2020. Our prayers are with his family at this difficult time.

Dennis Bisgaard, Interim Head of Park Tudor

One Purdue University senior said other students on the same floor were woken up by a “scream or some loud noises.”

“There are possibly witnesses, but they were not in the room,” said Wiete.

Eight students were removed from the floor as police investigated, but they were expected to be allowed back to their rooms before the end of the day.

Another Purdue student who lives in the same dorm said he received no alert from the university about the homicide. Jad Khalaf, who is an international student from the United Arab Emirates, said he got the news from his parents back home.

“The least you could do to inform me as someone who lives in the [same] dorm as someone [who] got murdered a night ago, is send like an Amber Alert on my phone. I’d like to know about it,” said Khalaf.

Khalaf, who said he’s never once questioned his safety while at Purdue, said he was “shocked” by the killing.

“It’s just very confusing for me and very odd because it never happens on campus and not something you hear every day, especially in your own dormitory,” he said.

Tim Doty, Purdue’s director of media and public relations, said students were not sent an alert because the suspect called 911 and was immediately taken into custody.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels issued a statement Wednesday morning. He said in part:

As Purdue’s president, but even more so as a parent myself, I assure you that the safety and security of our students is the single highest priority on our campus. Purdue is an extraordinarily safe place on any given day, and 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.

Such statistics are of no consolation on a day like this. A death on our campus and among our Purdue family affects each of us deeply.

Mitch Daniels, Purdue University president

“Our hearts go out to the victim and his family and friends and anyone who might have knew him or anybody who he may have touched in life,” echoed Wiete. “This is extremely sad and unfortunate, and I can’t imagine what his family is going through at this point in time.”

Police say there is no threat to students and the outlying community.

Counseling will be made available to students and staff via the school’s Counseling and Psychological Services program.

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