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Purdue student charged with murder in the brutal stabbing of his dorm roommate

Ji Min Sha, 22, is accused of killing Varun Manish Chheda, 20, who was found dead in their room last week with “multiple stab wounds and lacerations” to his head and neck.
Syndication: Journal-Courier
Students leave notes and flowers at a vigil for Varun Manish Chheda on Oct. 5 at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. Alex Martin / USA Today Network

A Purdue University student was charged with one count of murder in the fatal stabbing of his roommate in their dorm on the West Lafayette, Indiana, campus last week. 

During a hearing Thursday, the Tippecanoe County Prosecutor’s Office formally charged Ji Min Sha, 22, with killing Varun Manish Chheda, 20, a senior from Indianapolis, who was in his third year of college and was graduating early.

Prosecutors asked that Sha be held without bond.

Sha, a junior cybersecurity major and international student from South Korea, called 911 around 12:44 a.m. Oct. 5 to alert police about Chheda’s death. 

Officers found Chheda, who was studying data science, in a chair in their first-floor room at McCutcheon Hall with “multiple stab wounds and lacerations” to his head and neck, according to a probable cause affidavit filed days after the killing. 

There was “blood spatter on the wall, a pool of blood on the floor and a folding knife on the floor,” according to the document.

Sha admitted the knife belonged to him and confessed to the slaying to officers at the scene, according to the affidavit.

It is still unclear what motivated Sha to attack Chheda, authorities say. In an initial hearing last week, Sha told journalists “I was blackmailed” before he entered a courtroom at the Tippecanoe County Jail, where he was being held. 

He also said he wanted the victim’s family to know that “I am very sorry.” 

Purdue University Police Chief Lesley Wiete called the gruesome attack “unprovoked and senseless” at a news conference hours after the killing.

In Indiana, a murder conviction is punishable by the death penalty, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or 45 to 65 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. 

Chheda was gaming and talking with friends online when the friends suddenly heard screams on the call, which they believed to be the attack, Arunabh Sinha, a childhood friend of Chheda’s, told NBC News. Sinha wasn’t playing with his friends that night, but they told him they heard the attack and didn’t know what happened. They woke up Wednesday morning to news of Chheda’s death.

Andrew Wu, another childhood friend of Chheda’s, said that his death was “totally out of the blue” and that he had never spoken about his roommate.

Several students living at McCutcheon Hall expressed concern that they weren’t alerted about the killing until hours later. Police said the school didn’t issue an alert to students because Sha was in custody within minutes of the 911 call.

A memorial and visitation for Chheda was held in Indianapolis, his hometown, over the weekend. 

An obituary remembered Chheda as a bright student who “loved the sciences” and whose “passion for any subject matter was contagious.”

“His parents were the luckiest and blessed to have him as a son. He was the most caring and protective brother who played tricks galore and was his sister’s biggest champion,” the obituary said.