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Welfare check ballooned into homicide

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

 

BLACKSBURG – Blacksburg authorities say the case of a Virginia Tech student killed this past weekend quickly ballooned into a homicide investigation.

“The investigation began as a welfare check on an adult, and then evolved into a missing persons case, and quickly became a homicide investigation,” said Lt. Nathan O’Dell with Blacksburg Police Department. “Early on in the investigation, two suspects were developed (and) were subsequently arrested and charged in relation to the homicide.”

Wednesday, authorities officially identified the homicide victim as 21-year-old Samanata Shrestha, a native of Vienna. They had been awaiting confirmation from the medical examiner’s office and notification of family before releasing the identity.

However, police are still being tight-lipped as to the circumstances surrounding Shrestha’s murder. Blacksburg residents Jessica Michelle Ewing, 22, and Keifer Kyle Brown, 23, are charged in the case, but their connection with the victim has not been released.

Ewing is charged with murder, while Brown is charged with being an accessory after the fact for allegedly transporting, secreting, concealing or altering a dead body.

O’Dell said the investigation is continuing. He asked anyone with information on the case to contact Blacksburg Police Department through its TIP line at 540-961-1819 or by emailing CIU@blacksburg.gov.

Shrestha’s family invited the university community to a visitation at McCoy Funeral Home in Blacksburg Wednesday afternoon. Epsilon Sigma Alpha and the Nepalese Student Association plan to host a candlelight vigil Thursday evening at 7 on the lower terrace of War Memorial Chapel if weather permits. Should vigil have to be rescheduled, the new date will be posted at www.vtnews.vt.edu.

In an open letter to the university community, Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger said of the incident, “At times like this, we are at a loss for words to explain or understand such a heinous act. We know such crime should not happen in a special place like Blacksburg, yet we also know from our own history and that of similar towns throughout our nation that crime can visit even the most placid communities.”

He said one teacher described Shrestha, a senior majoring in biological sciences, as “faculty member’s dream” due to “exceptional scholarship, love of learning, and ‘she always had a smile.’”

Shrestha, an honors student, had minors in medicine and society and psychology.

“That an inspiring young woman would lose her life to violent crime hurts beyond belief,” Steger said.

He added, “We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family and will assist in any way possible. No amount of words can counteract their grief, but know that the university administrators and everyone within this community feels this pain.

“I ask that you care for each other – indeed, be on the lookout for each other in this stressful time. Know that the university has the resources to help you cope with your responses and emotions as we all process the tragic loss of this vibrant young life.”