Hundreds gather to honor slain Purdue student
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Hundreds gathered Wednesday to honor a Purdue University student killed overnight.
Twenty-year-old Varun Manish Chheda from Indianapolis, was killed in a stabbing that happened inside his McCutcheon Hall dorm room. Authorities confirmed the victim’s roommate was arrested in connection to his death.
Hours after the news shook the campus community, students, staff, and friends of Chheda gathered near the Unfinished Block P statue to remember him and honor his life.
According to Purdue, the statue holds a deep significance for the campus community because it serves as a reminder that even after graduating, the experience isn’t over, but it also serves as a way to honor those who didn’t have the opportunity to complete the Purdue experience for whatever reason that may be.
“Every student knows this monument and it’s a place that you would logically go during a time of mourning, so we wanted to make sure we could collect everyone together,” said Torin Vandervort, who helped organize the vigil along with other members of the Residence Hall Association.
The community has been working to process the grief and questions associated with what happened. Members of the student body said, regardless of whether they knew the victim or not, this has had a significant impact on so many people.
“I think everyone’s just in shock. My sister was in class today and said the girl next to her wouldn’t stop crying. No one really expected it and it never happens here,” said Claire Schnefke, one of the vigil organizers.
“It has impacted everyone even if we didn’t know Varun before today,” said sophomore Carrie Sponhauer. “I personally didn’t know Varun; I just felt it was important to show the Boilermaker community is here for Varun’s family, everyone who knows Varun, and the Park Tudor family especially.”
Varun was a graduate of Park Tudor School in Indianapolis. Friends spoke with FOX59 at the vigil and shared their heartfelt memories of a friend they said was kind and loyal to everyone he met.
“Everyone knew him as someone who had a lot of potential. Everyone respected him, so to see him go like this is just unfair,” said Kevin Tian, a friend of the victim and high school classmate at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis.
“Varun’s always been a caring guy. Ask anyone who knew him. No one could really point a fault towards him,” said Tian.
Spencer Durham knew Varun for nine years and said every interaction he can remember was a positive one.
“I can’t think of any time he was down. He always had a smile on his face and was passionate about everything he did,” said Durham. “He had such a positive impact on so many people.”
“He did not deserve this,” Durham added.
On top of the campus community, friends of the victims said their Park Tudor family has continued reaching out to each other to offer support during this difficult, unexpected time of mourning.
“I had some people who couldn’t make it here but called in and all people from the Park Tudor community to see if everyone’s doing okay,” said Tian. “I know some people here are all the way here from IU and drove up to see this.”
Friends, peers and faculty of the student remembered for his warm personality and ability to excel in the classroom, said they were moved to see the turnout Wednesday night. Many people stayed after the vigil, some for several hours, to lay a candle, note offering sympathy or bouquet of flowers.
“It speaks a lot to his character, I guess you could say. By word to mouth, a lot of people knew him, as someone who is caring and really smart,” said Tian.
“I think it means a lot. Obviously, a lot of people that knew him are affected but to see people who may not have known him are coming out to show their support, it just reflects a lot on how the community is,” Durham added.
Despite the overwhelming sadness and pain faced by so many on campus, staff and students said they will work to get through this together, while remembering a peer who was loved by so many.
“It’s all about support and the Boilermaker community is here to say we care, and it’s so heartbreaking it happened in this way,” Sponhauer said.
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