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Purdue University student killed by roommate in McCutcheon Hall

Varun Manish Chheda
Purdue University homicide
Posted at 6:08 AM, Oct 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-05 18:13:50-04

WEST LAFAYETTE — A Purdue University student was killed by his roommate — who is now in custody — overnight at McCutcheon Hall in what police are calling an unprovoked attack.

Varun Manish Chheda, 20, of Indianapolis died from "multiple sharp force traumatic injuries," according to the to the Tippecanoe County Coroner's Office. His death was ruled a homicide.

He was a senior studying data science, according to Purdue University Chief of Police Lesley Weite. According to his obituary, he was a junior. University spokesman Tim Doty clarified that he was in his third year of classes but had enough credits to be considered a senior.

Chheda's roommate, a 22-year-old junior and international student from Korea, reported the death to police himself about 12:44 a.m. and was promptly placed under arrest, Weite said.

As he was being walked into jail, the suspect told the media, "I love my family."

She added that the killing appeared to have been unprovoked and offered condolences to anyone who knew Chheda.

Weite also said that there is no known threat to the campus community, adding "That person is no longer a threat to anybody on this campus."

There may have been people who witnessed the homicide, but they were not in the room where it happened, according to Weite. About eight students in nearby first-floor rooms were moved to a temporary location while officers investigated. They'll be allowed to return to their rooms once the floor is reopened.

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels addressed the killing in a letter to the community sent sometime before 8:10 a.m. In it, he did not disclose the exact details of what happened.

"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," Daniels wrote.

The letter continues, "... 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."

Police also haven't provided specifics, citing an ongoing investigation.

At least one Purdue student told WRTV they were upset that the university didn't alert students about the homicide sooner. Weite said that if the suspect hadn't turned himself in as quickly as he did and there had been an ongoing public safety threat, the community would have been notified sooner.

Chheda was a 2020 graduate of Park Tudor School, officials there said.

In a statement, Park Tudor Interim Head of School Dennis Bisgaard said, "The entire Park Tudor community is saddened by the tragic loss of Varun Chheda, Park Tudor class of 2020. Our prayers are with his family at this difficult time."

Chheda also attended Sycamore School from kindergarten to eighth grade. He graduated in 2016. He was a member of a Sycamore Science Bowl team that finished second in the nation in 2016 and eighth in the nation in 2015 at the National Science Bowl competition, according to an official with the school.

He earned first place in the State Science Olympiad competition at Indiana University in 2015 for a presentation in environmental chemistry and earned second place in the state in the solar system division.

He was also 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.

"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.

According to an obituary for Chheda, he is survived by his parents, sister and grandparents.

Visitation will be held from 2-5 p.m. Sunday at Leppert Mortuary, 740 E. 86th St., Indianapoolis

The family is asking that contributions be made to Riley Children's Foundation, 500 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, in lieu of flowers.

Daniels and Weite both said that the university will provide counseling to anyone in need. University counselors will be accepting walk-in patients Wednesday.

This is the first homicide to happen on Purdue University's campus since January 2014, according to Tim Doty, director of media and public relations for the university.

In that instance, a gunman fatally shot another man inside Purdue's electric engineering building, CNN reports.

Police provided an update about 10 a.m. Wednesday. It can be seen here:

WRTV Reporter Kelsey Anderson contributed to this report.