WASHINGTON — Gallaudet University students and officials packed a courtroom Monday as a judge ordered freshman Joseph Mesa Jr. held without bond on charges of murdering two fellow students at the nation's best-known school for the deaf. Four sign-language interpreters helped in the proceedings.
Mesa, 20, is awaiting trial Nov. 5 on charges of killing 19-year-old freshmen Eric Plunkett on Sept. 28 and Benjamin Varner on Feb. 3, cases that shocked the university that caters to the deaf and hearing-impaired.
Outside the courtroom, Mesa's father expressed his regret to the families of Varner and Plunkett.
Joseph Mesa said it is "inconceivable for us as parents that our son could do something like this."
District of Columbia Police Officer Darryl Richmond testified that Joseph Mesa Jr. had confessed in a videotaped statement a day after the young man was told that his family would be "embarrassed and humiliated" if he did not tell the truth.
"He said, 'I killed them' and then he started going into partial detail about how he did it," Richmond said.
Richmond testified that Mesa told police Varner was typing on his computer in his dorm room when Mesa got a knife from under the microwave, stabbed Varner from behind and grabbed his checkbook.
Mesa described both Varner and Plunkett as friends and said robbery was the reason he killed them, the policeman testified. Evidence indicates Mesa used a credit card taken from Plunkett, the policeman said.
Mesa sat straight in his chair with his hands folded during the hearing.
Richmond said the defendant was upset and had been crying when he came to police to confess. The detective said Mesa wanted to confess because "he was feeling guilt and he wanted the Gallaudet community to feel safe."
Mesa's lawyer, Ferris Bond, told Judge Lee Satterfield he was concerned about getting a fair trial because of wide publicity in the case.
The judge told lawyers on both sides not to discuss the case publicly and said he would sign paperwork asking police to do likewise.
The judge declined Bond's request to allow Mesa to await trial in Guam with his family.