Virginia Tech Student Found Murdered in Car Trunk; 3 Arrested

By Bhargavi Kulkarni

Samanata Shrestha

Almost seven years after the Virginia Tech Massacre of 2007, the university is once again dealing with another tragedy – the loss of one of its students. Samanata Shrestha, a 21-year-old biology major of Nepali origin was found murdered Feb. 10.

According to ABC News, the 21-year-old Shrestha was reported missing after her parents couldn’t reach her. In a phone interview with ABC News, Rajeshree Shrestha, the mother said she quickly became worried. “Something was wrong; that was my immediate reaction,” she said. “Me and my husband said, ‘This is not right.’”

Popularly known as “Sam”, Samantha Shrestha, an honors student who hailed from Vienna, Va., had dreams of going to medical school.

Within 24 hours Shrestha’s parents reportedly asked Blacksburg, Va., police to check on the aspiring doctor, and a homicide investigation was begun. Investigators found Shrestha’s car abandoned on the side of the road Feb. 10 .Her body was in the back seat wrapped in a sleeping bag, police said, according to court documents obtained by the Roanoke Times.

However, Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech’s school newspaper reported that Shrestha was found in the car with marks around her neck that indicated that she was strangled. But Blackburg Police Lt. Nathan O’Dell told News India Times he cannot confirm it.

Meanwhile, police have arrested three people for their involvement in the murder. Twenty-two-year-old Jessica Michelle Ewing was charged with one count of second-degree murder. 23-year-old Keifer Kyle Brown, a recent graduate of the school, and 23-year-old Michael Christian Heller, a Blacksburg, Va. resident, were both charged with Accessory after the Fact. Cops accused Brown of helping to transport, conceal or alter the dead body, the Roanoke Times reported.

However, Lt. O’Dell told News India Times that the relationship between the suspects and the victim, as well as a motive for the killing, was still under investigation.

Ewing is a senior at the school, double majoring in fisheries science and biological sciences. Brown graduated last August with a degree in interdisciplinary studies. They are both being held without bond. Brown is in the Montgomery County Jail, but Ewing has been transferred to the Western Virginia Regional Jail.

In an open letter to the community, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said that one teacher described Shrestha as a “faculty member’s dream” because of her love of learning. “That an inspiring young woman would lose her life to violent crime hurts beyond belief,” Steger wrote.

The Epsilon Sigma Alpha fraternity at Virginia Tech and the Nepalese Student Association were to host a candlelight vigil for Shrestha Feb. 10, but according to the Virginia Tech website, the university was shut Feb. 13 due to the snow storm. Samantha Shrestha was active in both these organizations.

The death is particularly tragic for the young woman’s family because Shrestha’s parents are still recovering from the death of another child. In December 2008, the parents lost 22-year-old daughter Manisha Shrestha to a motorcycle accident in the family’s native country of Nepal.

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