Varun Manish Chheda, 20, of Indianapolis, died of “multiple sharp force traumatic injuries,” according to a preliminary autopsy. His roommate, Ji Min “Jimmy” Sha, is in custody.
A Purdue University student was arrested on a murder charge Wednesday and accused of killing his roommate overnight in a residence hall on the campus in West Lafayette, Indiana, the school’s police chief said.
Purdue University Police Chief Lesley Wiete and the Tippecanoe County coroner’s office identified the slain student as Varun Manish Chheda, 20, a senior from Indianapolis, who was studying data science.
Ji Min “Jimmy” Sha, a junior cybersecurity major and international student from Korea, called 911 around 12:45 a.m. Wednesday to alert police about the death, Wiete said at a news conference Wednesday morning.
Details of the call weren’t disclosed. Authorities said the incident happened in a room on the first floor of McCutcheon Hall.
Sha was in the Tippecanoe County Jail on Wednesday afternoon on a murder charge, according to jail records. No bond was set, records said.
Chheda died of “multiple sharp force traumatic injuries,” and the manner of death was a homicide, according to preliminary autopsy results.
The final autopsy findings are pending toxicology, the coroner’s office said.
Arunabh Sinha, a childhood friend of Chheda’s, told NBC News that Chheda had been gaming and talking with friends online through Discord on Tuesday night when they suddenly heard screaming on the call.
Sinha wasn’t playing with his friends that night, but they told him they heard the attack and didn’t know what happened. They woke up Wednesday morning to news of his death.
Wiete said Sha, 22, was taken into custody minutes after the 911 call and brought to the police station for further investigation.
Video posted Wednesday shows university police escorting Sha out of a patrol vehicle in handcuffs as reporters wait for him. As he is taken inside a building, a reporter asks Sha, “Can you tell us why you did it?”
Sha pauses a few seconds and then seems to say, “I love my family.” He then repeats the comment.
Wiete didn’t discuss a motive or details about weapons in the killing. She said the 911 call came from the room, which only Chheda and Sha were in at the time.
“I believe this was unprovoked and senseless,” she said, noting that neither roommate was asleep when the incident happened.
After Chheda’s death, school officials said there was no threat to the community.
School in mourning
Chheda’s death is Purdue’s first on-campus homicide in more than eight years, police said.
Andrew F. Boldt, 21, of West Bend, Wisconsin, was fatally shot Jan. 21, 2014, in the basement area of the electrical engineering building, the school said in a statement after the incident.
University President Mitch Daniels said Chheda’s death was “as tragic an event as we can imagine happening on our campus,” adding that “our hearts and thoughts go out to all of those affected by this terrible event.”
About 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled for the fall semester, according to the Purdue website.
Staff members at residence halls and clinicians with the school’s counseling and psychological services are providing support to students, he said in a statement Wednesday morning.
Daniels reassured everyone that the campus is a safe. “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,” he said.
“Such statistics are of no consolation on a day like this,” he added. “A death on our campus and among our Purdue family affects each of us deeply.”
Arunabh Sinha went to school with Chheda for 12 years and said their families were also friends. He said Chheda was in his third year of college and was graduating early.
He remembered Chheda as “a really smart guy, always top of his class, top of the chess club, science bowl team. He was really humble about it.” Not only was he a bright student, but he also “always did things the right way, he refused to take short cuts,” Sinha said.
Chheda won first place at a state Spanish competition in 2015 and 2016, and he scored top honors at the State Science Olympiad Competition at Indiana University in 2015 for a presentation in the environmental chemistry division, according to Sycamore School, where he attended from kindergarten to 8th grade, NBC affiliate WTHR of Indianapolis reported.