People leave bouquets of flowers at the Purdue University memorial for Varun Manish Chheda, the student who was killed by his roommate on Oct. 5 (Photo by Sophia Monasa)

Killing in Purdue dorm affects SCDS alumni

Two Country Day graduates, Ethan Monasa, ’22, and Arijit Trivedi, ’22, recently started their freshman year as roommates in McCutcheon Hall at Purdue University.

Classes had only been in session for seven weeks, and everything was going well, until the early morning of Oct. 5. 

Monasa was having a conversation with his friend and a resident assistant, and Trivedi had just returned from the gym. At one point during their conversation, they heard sirens outside.

“My RA commented on it. He was like, ‘I hope that’s not for our dorm,’” Monasa said.

At the time, they did not think much of it, so no one left the dorm to see what might have happened. Usually, when sirens sound, someone is intoxicated, Monasa said, but that was not the case this time.

According to the affidavit of probable cause filed in Tippecanoe County Court in Indiana, the sirens were in response to a 911 call from a male student who said he had just killed his roommate with a knife. 

Police officers responded, arriving at McCutcheon Hall to find the caller, Ji Min Sha, still in his room. He had what appeared to be blood on his clothing and body. Officers found Sha’s roommate, Varun Manish Chheda, 20, sitting in his chair. Medics arrived and confirmed Chheda was dead, according to the affidavit.

Sha, 22, was charged with murder.

When Monasa and Trivedi found out later that morning, they were shocked. 

“It was very sudden. People didn’t really know the details of what was going on,” Monasa said.

Around 8 a.m. that day, 7 hours after the incident, Purdue President Mitch Elias Daniels Jr. sent out an email informing the community about what had happened.

“I write to let you know that early this morning, one of our students was killed in his residence hall room,” Daniels wrote. 

Daniels assured families that the safety and security of Purdue’s students remained the No.1 priority.

“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 said in the email.

In Trivedi’s first class that day, communications, no one said anything about the incident, but his psychology professor canceled class later that day. 

Some professors sent out emails to students making sure people knew how to access various mental health resources.

Everyone on campus seemed slightly on edge for the first 48 hours after hearing about the incident, Monasa said. 

“You’d hear people talking about it in their own groups, and you could just tell people were a little uneasy,” Monasa said. 

Many people were glued to their phones trying to look for news or spreading any information they could, Trivedi said.

There has been a memorial set up on campus at the Unfinished Block P emblem. Monasa and Trivedi have both seen the memorial but did not attend the vigils. 

The campus has calmed down since the incident, Monasa said.

Monasa and Trivedi live in the North Tower of McCutcheon Hall, and the incident occurred in the South Tower.

“It’s shocking to have a crime as severe as a homicide happening in your house that you’re living in,” Trivedi said.

These kinds of crimes happen all over the place all the time, Monasa said.

“When it’s in your dorm, in the same building you live in, then that definitely is a little unsettling. It does catch you off guard and makes you think about it more,” Monasa said. 

The news of the tragedy quickly reached Brooke Wells, SCDS’s head of high school. 

He contacted the Monasa and Trivedi families, ensuring the students were okay and offering support. 

Ji Min Sha’s criminal case is pending in Tippecanoe Circuit Court in Indiana. A hearing has been set for Dec. 2.

Editor’s Note: Reporter Sophia Monasa is the sister of Purdue student Ethan Monasa.

— By Sophia Monasa and Eesha Dhawan

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