Va. Tech student found dead; Jessica Ewing charged

BLACKSBURG, Va. — An Easton woman was charged Monday, Feb. 10, with second-degree murder in the death of a 21-year-old Virginia Tech student.

According to the Blacksburg, Va., Police Department, an arrest warrant was obtained Monday for Jessica Michelle Ewing, 22, formerly of Easton, who is a senior at Virginia Tech University and currently lives off-campus.

On Tuesday, Blacksburg police confirmed the identify of the victim as Samanata Shrestha, a 21-year-old biology major at Virginia Tech, after getting confirmation from the medical examiner’s office and notifying the family.

What originally began Sunday, Feb. 9, as a welfare check evolved into a missing person case and then quickly into a homicide investigation, police said.

Police asked the public for help to find a black 2004 Mercedes C320, which belonged to Shrestha, and found it Monday after getting a citizen’s tip.

Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech’s school newspaper, reported Shrestha was found with marks around her neck, but police haven’t confirmed the report.

Lt. Nathan O’Dell, a Blacksburg Police Department spokesman, did confirm that the cause of death was homicide.

The Roanoke Times reported Wednesday that search warrants filed in the case indicated Shrestha and Ewing were friends who had fought over the weekend.

Ewing told several people she had “done something terrible” and told one person “I killed that girl,” The Roanoke Times reported, citing the search warrants.

Ewing and Keifer Kyle Brown, 23, of Blacksburg, who is charged as an accessory after the fact, were developed as suspects early on in the case, and were subsequently arrested and charged in relation to the homicide, police said. Brown is a recent Virginia Tech graduate.

Another Blacksburg resident, Michael Christian Heller, 23, was charged Wednesday with also being an accessory after the fact in the case.

O’Dell said Ewing is being held at Western Virginia Regional Jail, Brown is being held at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office jail and Heller was released on a $3,000 unsecured bond.

Last fall, Ewing was named a member of the Marching Virginians, Virginia Tech’s marching band. According to a 2009 article in The Star Democrat, Ewing, an Easton High School graduate, had a music scholarship to Virginia Tech, where she planned to study biology.

In 2009, the university announced that “Jessica Michelle Ewing of Easton, Md., a freshman majoring in biological sciences in the College of Science, has gained membership to the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Regimental Band, the Highty-Tighties.”

That same announcement also lists Keifer Kyle Brown of Hahira, Ga., a freshman majoring in university studies, as gaining membership to the Highty-Tighties.

Follow me on Twitter @jboll_stardem.

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