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Purdue University student killed in residence hall; roommate arrested for murder

WTHR Indianapolis 10/5/2022 staff

Purdue University police are investigating the homicide of a student at a residence hall overnight.

A university spokesperson said a 911 call came into the Purdue University Police Department at 12:44 a.m. Wednesday morning from McCutcheon Hall.

A suspect — the roommate of the victim — made the call and is in custody. There is no threat to the community, the university spokesperson said.

The Tippecanoe County Coroner's Office identified the victim as 20-year-old Varun Manish Chheda, of Indianapolis, who was a senior at the university and studied data science.

A preliminary autopsy Wednesday found Chheda's cause of death was determined to be multiple sharp force traumatic injuries.

There is no information on a possible motive at this time.

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Purdue University Police Chief Lesley Wiete identified the suspect as 22-year-old Ji Min Sha, a junior who is studying cybersecurity at Purdue. Police said Sha is an international student from Korea.

Sha is being held on a preliminarily charged of murder.

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According to Wiete, both students were awake at the time of the incident in their first floor dorm room, and Wiete said she believes the crime was unprovoked and senseless.

"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," Purdue University President Mitch Daniels said in a statement sent to students and staff Wednesday morning.

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As police investigated the incident, nearby students in McCutcheon Hall were moved to another area.

This was Purdue’s first on-campus homicide since January 2014, according to the university. Classes also continued as scheduled Wednesday.

Purdue's CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) department has clinicians available for walk-ins and will provide crisis support for students who need it, a university spokesperson said.

An investigation into the homicide is ongoing.

What we know about Varun Chheda

Dennis Bisgaard, interim head of school at Park Tudor, confirmed Chheda graduated from the private school on Indianapolis north side and released the following statement: 

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.

Chheda attended Sycamore School from Kindergarten through 8th Grade, graduating from Sycamore in 2016.

The school released the following statement to 13News about him:

Varun was a brilliant student, funny, and well liked by his classmates. He possessed admirable character traits that stemmed from a strong family," says Diane Borgmann, Sycamore's Head of School.

He was a member of the Sycamore Science Bowl team that finished 2nd in the nation in 2016 and 8th in the nation in 2015 at the National Science Bowl competition in Washington, DC.

Varun earned 1st place in the State Science Olympiad Competition at Indiana University in 2015 for his presentation in the Environmental Chemistry category. He was also 2nd in the state in the Solar System division.

He was a four-year member of the Sycamore MATHCOUNTS team and also earned first place honors in the state Concurso Académico Spanish competition in 2015 and 2016.

Daniels' full statement to Purdue students, staff:

Dear members of our Purdue 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.

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.


Mitch Daniels


This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.

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