Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Gallaudet Murders

A Community in Mourning

Joseph Mesa's Attorney, Ferris Bond
Joseph Mesa's Attorney, Ferris Bond

Mesa's attorney, Ferris Bond, argued that his client should be released on his own recognizance, since he had no criminal record and had a history of community service. The judge declined to allow him to go free: Mesa was to remain in jail until his preliminary hearing, because with a family in Guam there was danger that he might leave the country. In addition, since the evidence was substantial that he had killed twice, the community's safety was the foremost concern.

Mesa's family was notified, and his father was utterly stunned and bewildered. His son was not a violent person, he insisted. How could the charges be true? All their hopes for their son, who'd had a difficult time being deaf, were dashed.

The families of both victims were notified of Mesa's arrest, as was the attorney for Thomas Minch. Eric's sister was horrified to realize she had actually seen Mesa in Eric's room one evening. She had been conversing with Eric online via live-action video camera and had spotted a boy moving behind him, taking a videotape. She asked who it was. Eric had assured her the other boy was "my friend." Only a few days later, Mesa, who admitted to scouting out how easy it was to get access to the room, killed Eric to get his credit card. Eric's sister had actually seen him engaged in pre-crime surveillance.

Eric Plunkett's Sister, Erin Plunkett
Eric Plunkett's Sister, Erin Plunkett

University President I. King Jordon offered a statement for the media: "Obviously for the Gallaudet community, there's a sense of relief that someone has been taken into custody for this terrible crime. Also, there's a sense of sadness."

Gallaudet University President, I. King Jordon
Gallaudet University President, I. King Jordon

At Benjamin Varner's memorial service, friends talked about his hope to travel around the world and make changes for the better. His mother and sister were there from San Antonio. They said that Benjamin would have wanted them to forgive his killer, so they had. "He forgave the moment the life left his body," said Dianne Varner. "He was just pure love."

Benjamin Varner's Mother, Diane Varner
Benjamin Varner's Mother, Diane Varner

A few years earlier, Benjamin had adopted the Muslim faith after an inquisitive search through the world's religions, and he observed the rituals with the same vigor he applied to his studies, earning a grade point average of nearly 4.0. He had tutored others and set a good example with his desire to learn. His mother could not help but remember how he had cried when she brought him to school in August. He had prepared diligently, as he did in all things, but he was close to her and told her he would miss her. She had assured him he would be all right. They'd then parted, both in tears. She had heard him crying in the hallway as he walked away. He would email her every night, once even mentioning that he had met a boy from Guam Joseph Mesa.

The parents of both victims were overwhelmed by their inability to have protected their sons, and while they were glad for an arrest that looked as if it would stick, they did not feel closure over the senseless nature of the killings.

However, one family was relieved. The arrest exonerated Thomas Minch, who was officially welcomed to return. He declined the invitation.

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