Student arrested in Gallaudet slayings

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com February 15 2001 12:00 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 school’s gay student group, was killed in September, while Varner was killed two weeks ago. Authorities officially cleared Thomas Minch, who was arrested after Plunkett’s murder, of any connection to the crime. University president I. King Jordan said “We seem to be moving to closure” but added that “there’s a real sense of sadness.” Mesa, who lived across the hall from Plunkett at the time of Plunkett’s murder, was charged with two counts of felony murder. Police say he gave them a statement admitting to both murders. The motive in Varner’s 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 Mesa’s dorm room allegedly turned up bloody shoes and clothes. “Evidence was confiscated that was consistent with what we were looking for,” Gainer said. “There’s a lot of forensic evidence yet to be processed.” Police began to investigate Mesa when they found a check from Varner’s 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 Plunkett’s 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 Plunkett’s death.