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Purdue University student is arrested on a murder charge after his roommate is killed in a residence hall

A Purdue University student was arrested on a murder charge Wednesday after he allegedly killed his roommate in a residence hall on the Indiana campus, according to the school's police chief.

Ji Min “Jimmy” Sha, a junior cybersecurity major and international student from Korea, called 911 around 12:45 a.m. to alert police about the death, Purdue University Police Chief Lesley Wiete said during a news conference Wednesday morning.

Details of that call were not disclosed, but authorities said the incident unfolded in a room on the first floor of McCutcheon Hall.

The police chief and the Tippecanoe County Coroner's Office identified the slain student as Varun Manish Chheda, a 20-year-old senior from Indianapolis who was studying data science.

Chheda died of "multiple sharp force traumatic injuries" and the manner of death was a homicide, according to preliminary autopsy results.

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McCutcheon Hall, where a Purdue University student is alleged to have killed his roommate.Noe Padilla / USA Today Network

The final autopsy findings are pending toxicology, the coroner’s office said. 

Wiete said Sha, 22, was taken into custody minutes after the 911 call and transported to the police station for further investigation. He was in the Tippecanoe County Jail on Wednesday afternoon on a murder charge, according to jail records. There was no bond set for him, records said.

Following Chheda's death, school officials said there was no threat to the community.

Wiete did not discuss a motive or details about potential weapons, but said that the 911 call came from the room and only Chheda and Sha were in it at the time.

“I believe this was unprovoked and senseless,” she said, noting neither roommate was asleep when the incident happened.

School in mourning

Chheda's death marked 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, according to a statement the school released after the incident.

Cody M. Cousins, then 23, of Warsaw, Indiana, was taken into custody after the shooting, officials said. Court records show that in September of 2014, Cousins was sentenced to 65 years in the Indiana Department of Correction for the crime of felony murder. He was found dead a month later from an apparent suicide in his prison cell, The Associated Press reported.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels called Chedda's death "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 has about 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled for the fall semester, according to its website.

Staff at residence halls and clinicians with the school’s counseling and psychological services are providing support to students in need, he said in a statement Wednesday morning.

Daniels assured 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."

Remembering Chheda

Sumeeth Guda, a senior studying mathematics and statistics at Purdue University, told NBC News he worked with Chheda on a final group project during the spring 2022 semester.

He remembered him as "a serious student, definitely had an eye for detail and was determined to produce the best deliverable."

"Aside from that, he was a good guy, friendly, and open to helping the rest of us teammates,” Guda said. 

“I’m just still a bit shocked that this incident happened," he said. "And more importantly, I feel extremely sad for his parents, especially his mother.”

Guda said it's been encouraging to see the school community come together and support each other, but many questions as to what happened remain.

“Honestly, I think everyone is just waiting for the official police statements to come out to get the truth straight from the source about what actually happened," he said. "And the motives of the suspect.” 

Chheda graduated from Park Tudor School, a private school in Indianapolis, Dennis Bisgaard, the school’s interim head, confirmed. 

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

A school alumni Facebook page posted a tribute to Chheda Wednesday noting he attended Sycamore School from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“We will miss him. Varun was a brilliant student, funny, and well liked by his classmates. He possessed admirable character traits that stemmed from a strong family,” said Diane Borgmann, Sycamore’s head of school.

The post also referenced Chheda's graduation speech in May 2016.

"I have made many friends. Relationships have been built on mutual respect and admiration and I will cherish them," Chheda said during his speech to his classmates. "It is more than a school; it is a positive, healthy environment, where students, like young birds grow, and take flight."