Murder of Eric Plunkett and Benjamin Varner by Joseph Mesa Jr. highlighted on People Magazine Investigates

Eric Plunkett and Benjamin Varner photo
People Magazine Investigates on Investigation Discovery examines the murder of Eric Plunkett and Benjamin Varner by Joseph Mesa Jr. Pic Credit: Family Photo

Gallaudet University students Eric Plunkett and Benjamin Varner were both murdered by fellow studentJoseph Mesa Jr. People Magazine Investigates on Investigation Discovery examines their deaths.

On September 28, 2000, Mesa, 18, alerted a resident advisor that 18-year-old Plunkett had missed his tutoring session and that there was a foul odor emitting from his Cogswell Hall dorm room.

When the resident advisor entered Plunkett’s room, he found his lifeless body on the floor with a pool of blood by his head.

Plunkett’s cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

He sustained injuries to his head, face, and lower back area.

Investigators scanned Plunkett’s room for evidence and uncovered a chair with marks of blood on it as well as clumps of the victim’s scalp and hair.

However, there was no clues pointing to an obvious suspect.

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Police said Plunkett was attacked in a violent rage by someone he knew.

After the murder, students at Gallaudet University – a college campus in Washington, D.C. for the hearing impaired— began to panic and no longer felt safe at the school.

Four months later, Varner, 19, was found dead in the same dormitory as Plunkett. He had been stabbed to death, sustaining injuries to his head, neck, and chest.

Detectives caught a break when they found a forged check for $650 from Varner’s account, that was made out to Mesa. In Mesa’s room they also found a blood-stain Nike shoe that matched the footprint found in Varner’s room.

Washington police soon arrested Mesa and he quickly confessed to the killings.

Mesa told police that he went into Varner’s room and demanded his checkbook before stabbing him 19 times.

Before leaving the room, Mesa stole his wallet and credit cards.

Mesa also admitted to entering Plunkett’s room. He said he choked and beat him before stealing his wallet.

He was convicted of two counts of felony murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

People Magazine Investigates — The Sound of Silence, airs at 10:00 p.m. on Investigation Discovery.

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