The 20-year-old Purdue University student stabbed to death in his dorm was outgoing, close to his family and wise beyond his years, according to his parents.
Varun Manish Chheda, a senior data scientist, was found dead in his room on campus in West Lafayette, Indiana, on Oct. 5 after his roommate called 911, university police said. The roommate, Ji “Jimmy” Min Sha, 22, was arrested and charged with Chheda’s murder.
Although Varun was a busy student, he always kept in touch with his mother, father and younger sister. He called his mother between classes, shared his Wordle score with her and checked in by text each morning and evening, his mother, Seema Dedhiya, told ABC News in an exclusive interview.
On Varun’s last night of life, Dedhiya said he sent his son his usual evening message: “Eat well, sleep well. … Finish your homework.”
“He said, ‘Yeah, mom, I did it all,'” she recalled.
She said Varun’s last text was to her at 11:45 p.m.: “Good night, mom.”
Early in the morning of October 5, two police officers showed up at the family’s doorstep in Indianapolis with the tragic news. The 20-year-old suffered multiple stab wounds in an “unprovoked” attack, according to Purdue University Police Chief Lesley Weite.
Seema Dedhiya and her husband, Manish Chheda, said they had no sense of the issues with Varun’s roommate and said their son rarely mentioned him. They described Varun as a peacemaker, which they say made his violent death all the more shocking.
Varun was a minimalist and an environmentalist. He never asked his parents for money and insisted he didn’t need a nicer car or a better computer, they said.
He was passionate about taekwondo, strategy games and especially science, says his father, Manish Chheda.
Varun was recently studying medical genomics and “maybe even considering following in my footsteps and becoming a doctor,” he said.
“How that would have happened, we can only guess at this point,” he said. “I think he would have been involved in…helping people face to face or in some area of research.”
He was a kind big brother and a caring friend, his father said, recalling the time Varun encouraged a friend to donate his long hair to cancer survivors.
“We think he did a lot of good in the time he had,” said Manish Chheda. “We are proud of that.”
When asked what she would miss most, Dedhiya tearfully replied: her laughter, her hugs, “her genius” and “all the conversations”.
“I miss him terribly,” Dedhiya said.
Manish Chheda said he doesn’t know when he will be “psychologically ready” to return to work as a doctor. “I need to be more focused than I am right now. We’re going to get help, we’re going to get advice.”
The family “will never be normal again”, but he said he hopes they find a “new normal”.
“You can’t lose someone like that and never get over it. But we have to try,” he said.
Sha did not enter a plea. As he headed for his first court appearance on October 7, Sha told reporters “I’m so sorry” when asked if he had a message for the victim’s family. Sha also said, “I was blackmailed,” but didn’t elaborate.
His defense attorney did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
ABC News’ Eva Pilgrim and Chris Donato contributed to this report.