Purdue student killed in dorm ID'd as Varun Chheda
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLS) -- The Purdue University student accused of stabbing his roommate to death made his first public appearance in court Friday, where he briefly spoke to reporters.
When asked if he has a message for the victim's family, suspect Ji Min Sha said "I'm very sorry." He also claimed he was blackmailed, but didn't elaborate further.
Sha was granted a continuance in his case as formal charges are being filed. He is due back in court next Thursday.
Purdue University student Varun Manish Chheda was killed in a residence hall early Wednesday morning, the university said.
The school in West Lafayette, Indiana, said in a statement that Purdue police received a 911 call at about 12:44 a.m. from the victim's roommate.
Purdue University Chief of Police Lesley Weite said 20-year-old Chheda, a senior majoring in data science from Indianapolis, was found dead in his room at McCutcheon Hall.
Weite said his roommate, 22-year-old Ji Min Sha, is in custody on a preliminary charge of murder. Sha is a junior majoring in cyber security and is an international student from Seoul, South Korea.
Wiete said Sha, who goes by the nickname "Jimmy," called police at around 12:45 a.m. "alerting us to the death of his roommate" in their first-floor dorm room on the campus in West Lafayette, which is about 65 miles northwest of Indianapolis or two hours southeast of Chicago, Wiete said.
"One roommate has attacked another with a knife," Tippecanoe County Law Enforcement said over radio communications.
Sha has not been formally charged. Wiete said investigators don't know why Chheda was killed, but they think he was awake at the time.
"We had him very quickly," Weite said.
An investigation is underway, and there is not a threat to the community, the university said. No other roommates lived with the victim and suspect, Weite said.
Tippecanoe County Coroner Carrie Costello said an autopsy determined that Chheda died of "multiple sharp-force traumatic injuries" and the manner of death is homicide.
"I believe this was unprovoked and senseless," Weite said. "Our hearts go out to the victim and his family and friends. I can't even imagine what his family is going through."
The campus held a vigil Wednesday night for Chheda.
Although classes continued as scheduled, news that one of their fellow students was killed unsettled a campus with strong Chicago ties.
"Someone texted me asking if I was OK. Then I read the email. President Daniels sent an email to everybody," Purdue freshman Nils Haugen said.
Purdue University president Mitch Daniels said in a letter to students, "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.
This is as tragic an event as we can imagine happening on our campus and our hearts and thoughts go out to all of those affected by this terrible event.
We do not have all the details yet. Our Purdue University Police Department is conducting a thorough investigation of this incident so that we all may learn more about what transpired.
As is always the case, staff from our Office of the Dean of Students, our Residence Halls, and clinicians at Purdue's Counseling and Psychological Services are providing support and are available to anyone who needs or wants their care.
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.
I am ever grateful to all of you who continually take the time to care for each other and know you will do so in the days ahead."
This was the first homicide to occur on Purdue's campus since 2014. The university is making counselors available to anyone who needs support.
The Associated Press contributed to this post.