Hundreds of students from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, organized a candlelight vigil in honor of Varun Chheda, a 20-year-old Purdue student found murdered in his dorm room this week.
The students gathered around their campus’ “Unfinished Block P” statue on Wednesday evening to light candles, offer letters and drop off flowers in honor of Chheda. Some organization leaders also spoke about him during the gathering.
“My encouragement tonight is that we will go through this together and in unity as a boilermaker family,” Pamela Sari, the director of Purdue’s Asian American and Asian Resource Cultural Center, said. “My heart goes to all of us here and we will go through this together in this difficult time.”
“Varun Manish Chheda was no different than the rest of us here today. He lived on campus, faced the rigorous curriculum at Purdue and chose to come to this school in hopes of a successful future,” Katelyn On, a member of the university’s Asian Union Student Board, said.
“Amongst all that he had was friends and family that cared so much and deeply for him. It’s incomprehensibly difficult to deal with the loss of a loved one. So we ask that you guys join us in sending all of our love and support to the loved ones of Varun,” On continued.
The incident reportedly occurred inside McCutcheon Hall, a 730-resident dormitory. Ji Min Sha, a 22-year-old international student from Korea, allegedly told authorities he murdered Chheda at around 12:44 a.m.
A preliminary autopsy conducted by the Tippecanoe County Coroner’s Office indicated that Chheda died from “multiple sharp-force traumatic injuries.”
Sha, who is studying cyber security at Purdue, was immediately taken into custody shortly after calling the authorities from his dorm room.
Chheda was murdered 10 days before his 21st birthday.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Purdue University Police Department Chief Lesley Wiete declared that the incident was “unprovoked and senseless.”
“Our hearts go out to the victim and his family and friends and anybody who knew him and anybody he may have touched in his life,” Wiete said. “This is extremely sad and unfortunate for us today and I can’t even imagine what his family is going through at this time.”
NEW: I talked to a friend of Varun Chheda, the student killed at Purdue. Andrew Wu says Varun was kind, smart and passionate. As for Varun’s roommate, now arrested for his murder, Wu says Varun never said much about him. Live reports coming on @FOX59, @CBS4Indy and @NewsNation. pic.twitter.com/p1hwQYP6wp
— Eric Graves (@ReporterEric) October 5, 2022
Chheda, who was a senior at Purdue studying data science, was a candidate of the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, a program established in 1964 that recognizes high-achieving high school seniors in the U.S.
Educator Diane Borgmann of Sycamore School in Indianapolis, where Chheda studied from kindergarten to eighth grade, described him as “brilliant” and “likable.”
“He was funny, he was well-liked by his classmates and came from a great family,” Borgmann told The Indianapolis Star. “He had really strong character values. The two words that I think of are brilliant and likeable. Sometimes people can be really brilliant and not relatable but he was super personable on top of his brilliance.”