Virginia Tech students Samanata Shrestha and Jessica Ewing were close friends who got into a fight over the weekend, days before Shrestha’s body was discovered, according to search warrants filed Wednesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
Before Ewing was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, she told several people that she had “done something terrible,” according to the warrants.
One female, identified only as Natalie in the documents, told police that Ewing said to her: “If I tell you what I did last night, will you still love me?”
Natalie said Ewing then added, “I killed that girl.”
Shrestha, a 21-year-old senior, was reported missing on Saturday by her parents, who could not get in touch with her, according to the warrants. Police interviewed Shrestha’s boyfriend, Scott Masselli, who said he last spoke to Shrestha about 11:30 p.m. on Friday, and Shrestha said she was hanging out at her apartment with Ewing, the warrants stated.
On Monday, Shrestha’s missing 2004 Mercedes C320 was found on High Meadow Drive in Montgomery County containing “what was later discovered to be the deceased remains of an unidentified female subject,” according to a warrant.
Ewing, 22, who is also a Tech senior, has been charged with one count of second-degree murder in relation to Shrestha’s death. Recent Tech graduate Keifer Kyle Brown, 23, is facing charges that he was an accessory after the fact and that he transported, secreted, concealed or altered a dead body.
Police said on Wednesday that another person has been charged in the case. Michael Christian Heller, 23, is charged with being an accessory after the fact in a felony. Heller has been released on a $3,000 unsecured bond, according to Blacksburg police Lt. Nathan O’Dell.
Heller is listed as a mechanical engineering student on Tech’s online directory, but it was not immediately clear if he is currently enrolled.
The cause of Shrestha’s death has not been released by Blacksburg police, and the warrants do not provide any further information about a possible cause.
The warrants were filed a couple of hours before Shrestha’s visitation began Wednesday at McCoy Funeral Home in Blacksburg.
Mourners formed a long line to pay their respects to Shrestha and her bereaved family, who had invited the university community to attend the private viewing. Virginia Tech students and faculty — recognizable by the parking placards hanging from their vehicles’ rearview mirrors — came and went during the two-hour visitation. Many wept.
The Shrestha family declined to be interviewed but released a statement through the Rev. Tommy McDearis, of the Blacksburg Baptist Church, saying “we dearly love our daughter, and we want to see justice done.”
McDearis said the church is helping the Shresthas find a venue in Vienna — where Samanata Shrestha lived before attending Tech — for their daughter’s funeral.
The warrants do not specify what the two women were allegedly fighting about, but the documents do paint a clearer timeline of the events leading to the discovery of Shrestha’s body on Monday.
According to the warrants:
Police were told that Shrestha and Ewing were together about 11:30 p.m. on Friday.
Shrestha’s parents, who reported her missing on Saturday, told officers that it was “very unusual” that they had not talked to their daughter “because they talk to her every day and she always answers the phone when they call her.”
Her parents also reported that their daughter’s Mercedes was missing. It was not clear in the search warrants how Shrestha’s parents knew about the car.
Shrestha’s roommate, Gayathri Cheran, told police that she discovered several items damaged and missing when she returned to the apartment on Sunday. The missing items included two wine glasses, a gold-colored elephant head statue, a hanging elephant head symbol, a white leather notebook with a gold owl on the front, a picture of Shrestha and her boyfriend and a “light purplish blue” sleeping bag.
During the investigation, police determined that Keifer Brown had been involved after the crime had taken place. Brown told a detective that he is good friends with Ewing and that she contacted him on Saturday requesting him to retrieve several items from her apartment in the 300 block of Pheasant Run Court.
Brown told police that he retrieved the keys to a Mercedes and gave them to Heller, as Ewing requested.
Heller told officers that he received the keys and an identification card with Shrestha’s name. He said Ewing came to his house on Saturday at 11:30 p.m. and retrieved the items from him.
Detectives spoke with a LaNette Dellinger, who said that Ewing was at her residence on Saturday and had told her that “she had been in a fight with a female and hurt her very bad.”
“She said that she asked Ewing how she knew the female was dead after the fight and she said that she checked her for a pulse.”
On Sunday, police checked the location of Shrestha’s cellphone, and it was shown to be located in the area of Pheasant Run Court, which is the area in which Ewing lives.
Numerous people received phone calls from a number registered to Ewing “requesting help, that she had done something terrible.”
Police are being provided the phone records of the number registered to Ewing, which officers requested because “the decedent was moved from the original crime scene to the location where the decedent was found. Ewing would have needed help moving the decedent and the decedent’s vehicle.”
Ewing was arrested on Monday in room 201 at the Comfort Inn in Blacksburg. She had contacted Brown just prior to her arrest by using her cellphone, but when she was arrested, she did not have a cellphone with her.
Officers searched Ewing’s hotel room about 6 a.m. on Monday but did not seize any items. They also searched her 2012 Kia, which was located outside the Comfort Inn, and seized a black luggage bag that contained various items, a green Army bag containing a “black pack” and a gray duffel bag that contained various items.
Another warrant stated that a number of the missing items from Shrestha’s apartment were recovered in Ewing’s vehicle.
A shirt, bra and digital camera were seized from Ewing’s residence in the 300 block of Pheasant Run Court.
At Brown’s residence in the 600 block of Clay Street, officers seized a bag containing smoking devices and green plant material.
Police also searched a 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse bearing a Maryland registration on Monday and seized books. It was located in the Montgomery County Public Library parking lot, across from the police department, when it was being searched. The warrants do not specify who owns the Eclipse.
Shrestha’s vehicle was locked when police located it on High Meadow Drive. Officers were able to observe “what appeared to be a dark in color sleeping bag, along with other cloth articles in the rear seat of the vehicle,” which were later discovered to contain Shrestha’s remains.
On Tuesday, two separate people received messages “that indicted they were from the victim’s phone. The victim’s phone appears to be turned on and being used
by unknown person or persons.”
Shrestha’s phone records are being provided to police.
Staff writer Tonia Moxley contributed to this report.