Vigil held for Valparaiso University grad student stabbed at Planet Fitness: 'He has many dreams'

Varun Raj Pucha's family prays for justice after suspect Jordan Andrade charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery

Maher Kawash Image
Monday, November 6, 2023
Vigil held for IN grad student stabbed at gym: 'He has many dreams'
A Merrillville, Indiana vigil was held for Valparaiso University student Varun Raj Pucha, who was critically injured in a Planet Fitness stabbing.

VALPARAISO, Ind. (WLS) -- A lot of people showed up on Sunday night to the Indian American cultural center in Merrillville, Indiana to unite together for Varun Raj Pucha.

His cousin told ABC7 that Varun's condition has not improved since the incident, and they need the power of prayer right now.

That's a prayer of healing as this community tries to rally around the 29-year-old Valparaiso grad student who is on life support right now. He was stabbed in the head last Sunday while working out at Planet Fitness just down the road from his university.

Since then, Varun has only had movement on one side of his body and has remained unconscious at a hospital in Fort Wayne.

"His condition is still critical. Just don't know what will happen at any moment," said Anile Balleboyne, the victim's cousin. "We're just hoping for the best, but we don't know."

Anile is one of just a couple relatives Varun has in the U.S. as his parents and the rest of the family are in India. She said Varun came to Indiana about a year and a half ago in hopes of getting a good education.

"It's very difficult, because no one would expect this kind of situation for their kids. He has many dreams. He came with many dreams, to financially and emotionally support his family," Anile said.

SEE ALSO | Valparaiso University students shocked after international graduate student stabbed

The family is praying for justice after Valparaiso police arrested 24-year-old Jordan Andrade, charging him with attempted murder and aggravated battery. Police have not announced a motive in the stabbing.

In the meantime, some of Varun's friends, classmates and teachers spoke at Sunday night's vigil. They say he is often quiet, but has always focused on his studies and enjoyed spending time with his tight-knit group of friends.

"I really hope to get justice for him, and I'm asking each and every one of you to have faith and support for him," one student said.

The university associate provost, Lissa Yogan, also showed up, explaining what has been a difficult week on campus.

"I would say the tone has been very somber. It's so sad. I don't know how else to say. It hangs over everything. You go about your daily life, and this event truly pierced through it all," Yogan said.

The university has been working with its international studies office to help Varun's family secure emergency passports and the finances they need to see their son.

They hope to have that happen within the next week, praying that Varun can hold on.