VALPARAISO, Ind. — A 24-year-old man is suspected in the stabbing death of a Valparaiso University student at a Northwest Indiana-area Planet Fitness.
Valparaiso University president José D. Padilla confirmed the passing of Varun Raj Pucha on Wednesday, calling his death “an immense loss to our campus family, and an immeasurably greater loss for those close to him.”
Pucha, who died Tuesday, Nov. 7, was set to graduate in December with a Master’s degree in Computer Science.
According to Valparaiso police, authorities responded to the fitness center, located in the 1200 block of Strongbow Centre Drive, on Oct. 29 following reports that a man had been stabbed.
The investigation led police to Jordan Andrade of Porter Township, who was initially booked on charges of attempted murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Charges are expected to be upgraded to murder.
Police did not speculate on a motive, but the Northwest Indiana Times reports that Andrade had previously been diagnosed with serious mental health conditions. The newspaper adds that the stabbing took place as Pucha was seated in a massage chair inside the gym.
Court documents obtained by WGN News revealed that Andrade believed Pucha was a threat while the two were inside of the gym. When asked why he had the folding knife allegedly used in the killing of Pucha, Andrade reportedly told police he previously used the knife to open boxes where he worked.
Officials said Pucha was stabbed in his right temple, adding the knife wound reached his brain stem. He has less than a 5% chance of survival.
Andrade is currently being held at the Porter County Jail. His next court date is scheduled for Jan. 19.
Padilla said Valparaiso University personnel will “continue to communicate with and support Varun’s family as we navigate through this tragic time.”
An on-campus memorial service for Pucha is planned for Thursday, Nov. 16.
The chair of the Valparaiso International Center, Hugh E. McGuigan, PhD, issued a statement that read, “The Valparaiso International Center’s Board of Directors was shocked and saddened by the senseless and violent attack on Varun Raj Pucha, which ultimately led to his death yesterday. Varun was a graduate student in information technology at Valparaiso University, one month away from receiving his master’s degree. We have been praying for Varun and his family ever since the attack, and we offer our heartfelt condolences to his family, his friends, and all members of the Valparaiso University community.
During my twenty five years as director of international students and scholars at Valparaiso University and now as chair of the Valparaiso International Center, we have always promoted Valparaiso University and the City of Valparaiso as a safe, welcoming place for international students and other internationals. The Valparaiso International Center, Valparaiso University, and the City of Valparaiso need to come together now and reassure our international guests that this is, indeed, a safe and welcoming place for them.”
Anyone with additional information is asked to call the Valparaiso Police Department at (219) 462-2135. Information can also be texted to TIP411 (847-411).