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Purdue University student told police he used knife to kill roommate as he was sitting in a chair, affidavit says

It is not clear why Ji Min Sha allegedly stabbed his roommate. Varun Manish Chheda was found with "multiple stab wounds and lacerations," according to the affidavit.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Purdue University student suspected in the killing of his roommate in their dorm room this week confessed to police he stabbed him to death, according to an affidavit.

The university police department received a call from the student, Ji Min Sha, about 12:44 a.m. Wednesday, the affidavit said.

When officers arrived at their first-floor room at McCutcheon Hall, they discovered the roommate, Varun Manish Chheda, in a chair with "multiple stab wounds and lacerations" to his head and neck, the affidavit said.

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, a 22-year-old international student from South Korea, had what appeared to be blood on his clothing and on his body and was detained, the affidavit said.

When Sha spoke to detectives, he confessed to the slaying, according to the affidavit.

"Sha said the knife on the floor was his, and admitted he used the knife to kill Chheda while he was sitting in the chair where police found him," the affidavit said. "Sha said after he killed Chheda he called 911 and remained in the room until the officers arrived and arrested him."

However, the affidavit did not shed light on a motive in the attack. Purdue University Police Chief Lesley Wiete previously said she believed Chheda’s death was “unprovoked and senseless.”

Sha made his initial court appearance Friday in a small courtroom in the Tippecanoe County Jail before Tippecanoe County Magistrate Sarah Wyatt. He wore a black jumpsuit and orange slippers.

During the hearing, Sha kept his head down and arms crossed while looking flustered.


Varun Manish Chheda.
Varun Manish Chheda.WTHR

The Tippecanoe County prosecutor filed a 72-hour hold for Sha "to further investigate" the incident, the Tippecanoe County Clerk's Office said.

The hold will last through Thursday, as it excludes weekend days and Monday is a holiday, meaning courts will be closed. Formal charges are expected to be filed afterward.

Chheda, 20, was gaming and talking with friends online when they suddenly started hearing 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 his death.

Andrew Wu, another childhood friend of Chheda's, said his death was “totally out of the blue” and Chheda never spoke about his roommate.

The West Lafayette, Indiana, campus has been reeling in the wake of Chheda's death, with students concerned that they weren’t alerted about the homicide until hours later. Police said the school did not issue an alert to students because Sha was in custody within minutes of the 911 call.

A visitation for Chheda, a third-year student slated to graduate early, will be held Sunday in Indianapolis.

An obituary for Chheda remembered him 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.

As Sha walked out of the courtroom, he was asked what he wanted to say to Chheda’s family.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Safia Samee Ali reported from Lafayette, Indiana, and Marlene Lenthang and Antonio Planas reported from New York City.