By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com February 15 2001 1:00 AM ET
A 20-year-old student at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., was charged Tuesday night with the slayings of two fellow students at the school for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, The Washington Post reports. Joseph Mafnas Mesa Jr. of Guam was charged with the killings of Eric Plunkett and Benjamin Varner in their dorm rooms. Plunkett, a freshman who was a member of the schools gay student group, was killed in September, while Varner was killed two weeks ago. Authorities officially cleared Thomas Minch, who was arrested after Plunketts murder, of any connection to the crime. University president I. King Jordan said We seem to be moving to closure but added that theres a real sense of sadness. Mesa, who lived across the hall from Plunkett at the time of Plunketts murder, was charged with two counts of felony murder. Police say he gave them a statement admitting to both murders. The motive in Varners death was apparently robbery, with Mesa allegedly stabbing Varner when the two struggled. It looks like it was a straight-up robbery, executive assistant police chief Terrance Gainer said. He went right into the room and was going to rob him, and a fight ensued. A search of Mesas dorm room allegedly turned up bloody shoes and clothes. Evidence was confiscated that was consistent with what we were looking for, Gainer said. Theres a lot of forensic evidence yet to be processed. Police began to investigate Mesa when they found a check from Varners account written to him. University officials said they plan to make overtures to Minch to have him return to the school. He was asked to leave after he was arrested for Plunketts murder, although police dropped the charges against him within 24 hours of his arrest. At the time, police said that Plunkett and Minch, who were friends, had had a fight that led to Plunketts death.