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Family of Murdered galvanometer Student Holds News Conference

Aired February 5, 2001 - 3:05 p.m. ET


JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Bobbie, thanks. We need to take you immediately to Washington, D.C. Late developments in the story of a 19-year-old student who was found killed this weekend at Gallaudet University. Let's listen to the father of the victim, Benjamin Varner. This is Willie Varner.

WILLIE VARNER, VICTIM'S FATHER: From the day we got here and continue on down, especially the D.C. police department was very helpful. And Officer Gregory (ph) and Officer Harkins (ph), I thank you very much. And they're still with me and without them, it would have been more difficult. And, also, the SAPD -- I forgot their names -- the two officers that came to the house yesterday, thank you for your kindness.

And it's going to be hard for me to talk about Ben. I've never -- this is the worst thing that's ever happened to me, and I'm having a hard time dealing with it. I'm just wanting the people back in San Antonio and the family in Arkansas to know that we're doing OK, and I just...

JENNIFER VARNER, VICTIM'S SISTER: We're not doing OK, but we're going to get through this.

W. VARNER: And I miss him terribly. I have good moments and bad moments. And I know nothing about the details of the murder, which made this even worse. And that's -- really, I just wanted to let you know that these people here have been wonderful, and I am ready to go back to San Antonio and I want to take my boy back. And that's really about all I have to say and -- my only son. I hope that someone will get caught. And if there is a connection between the first murder and this, I sure hope this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will solve it. And for some reason, I have a -- for no reason, I really feel like this will get solved one day and I really want to thank the police department for being so nice. And that's really all I have to say. And my daughter, she wants to -- I wanted her to...

J. VARNER: My only comment is, tell your children, brothers and sisters, tell each other that you love each other, because you'll never know when their last day will be. God takes them away. I don't know what else to say. I have a lot of things to say but I can't express them.

I want to tell the killer, you're not getting over on me and I'm not going to let your evil consume me because you haven't won. W. VARNER: One thing about Ben, and you folks don't know him, but Ben did not have an evil thought -- there was nothing evil. There was nothing but sweetness in this boy, an innocent boy, growing in leaps and bounds. And we spent -- he gave us so much love. I learned so much about life due to him. And I don't know how we'll get over this. I will never get over it, but this was a super kind, kind person, and no reasons for anybody to hate him, not at all. And that's it. He was a good, good son. And I wanted everybody in San Antonio, friends back home to know I'm coming home tomorrow. Hope to have his funeral Thursday. Back to San Antonio. It was my son's hometown, not mine, but it's my hometown now. But Fort Sam Houston, that area, that's it.

I'll answer a few questions. Anybody got anything?

QUESTION: Sir, we were told that your son called home every night.

W. VARNER: Through the Internet, instant mail.

QUESTION: When was the last you heard from him?

W. VARNER: I believe for me, it was Sunday, Monday. It wasn't long. I don't talk very well. My wife, they communicated all the time, all the time. Nobody closer -- I don't believe there's anybody can be closer, a mother and son. You just wouldn't -- you just don't know how close they were.

QUESTION: Did you know if you heard from him on Friday?

W. VARNER: No, did not hear anything. I did get a message and I was -- and I couldn't get to it, and he had already signed off sometime after that Monday. It might have been Wednesday or Thursday, I'm not sure. But just usually to say hello. And when I tried to answer him back, he was off line.

QUESTION: Mr. Varner, in September following the tragedy involving Mr. Plunkett (ph) here, I'm sure Benjamin probably spoke with you about that?

W. VARNER: Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: What did he -- did he express concern for his own safety or anything?

W. VARNER: Yes, he was afraid. And him being away from home for the first time, and we also was so alarmed for his safety. We talked about it and then -- I mean, he wasn't afraid -- it bothered him and we speculated who it could be. And we talked about it again when he was home for Christmas. And all we could do was speculate like anybody else who or what could have happened. That's about it.

QUESTION: Did he express any trepidation about coming back next semester?

W. VARNER: No, not at all. I think, you know, he got over that like we did. We kind of forgot about it, that there still could be something bad happen.

J. VARNER: Ben loved Gallaudet.

W. VARNER: He loved Gallaudet.

J. VARNER: And he loved Washington, D.C.

W. VARNER: He did.

J. VARNER: He loved the people and the culture. He loved the world. He was a people person.


J. VARNER: He wanted to explore different cultures, different personalities. He had such a bright future. He was the most different person that I've ever met, not only because of his deafness but his heart held beliefs that everyone should aspire to. I can't explain it.

W. VARNER: If you'd know this guy for five minutes, you would have saw he was a special -- very special person. And getting away from home this first semester, there was a lot of anxieties, and he was getting into it, and he was growing by leaps and bounds. I could see so much change in his knowledge of the world and his -- he was comfortable and he was happy. He was happy, happy to come back. And he was looking forward to spring break and the wife -- he wanted Diane to come back and visit here on spring break not go -- return home. And that's what we were looking forward to was spring break. And this is just -- the shock of this is unbelievable. Just couldn't believe it, that something like this would happen. And to have a murder on top, it just made it worse, just worse.

QUESTION: Mr.Varner, had he spoken at all of any difficulties that he might have been having either at school or with anyone here at school?

W. VARNER: No, nothing. This is a complete shock. No -- nothing bad to report, no threats.

J. VARNER: The only difficulties he had was being a freshman, over a thousand miles away from home, the typical difficulties of someone -- an 18-year-old being away and not having his parents to come to him, comfort him. It was difficult living in the dorm at times because it's difficult for anyone that's a child just having to socialize with people and not having family immediately there. But no problems that no other child had on the campus.

W. VARNER: I have no regrets him coming to Gallaudet. There was another college he could have went to, and my wife and I felt like this was a great place and still do. And on the other hand, you're thinking, well, it's going to be safe there. He did mention he wanted to move off campus because all the fire alarms going off and having to get up at 2:00 in the morning when it's cold. You know, and he didn't talk about moving off. And it was, "Oh, don't move off." It's so safe and more expensive. You'll be much better off at Gallaudet. And I still believe that. This is just a most unfortunate thing.

This -- hard to believe that this has happened, and I hope that with this second death -- and I'm sure I know -- I'm sure Gallaudet officials are going to -- I'm sure are going to upgrade their safety and security for the students. I know they will. And nobody could foresee something like this happening. I don't think they did or we did. Or if I had any concerns, I would have -- I think I would have done something about it if I really thought there was a danger.

QUESTION: Mr. Varner, did you...

CHEN: Tragic irony. Father of Benjamin Varner saying that his son had been bothered by the fire alarms in his dormitory at Gallaudet University. It was fire alarms, a false fire alarm that alerted authorities to Ben Varner's murder early Saturday. This is a story of 19-year-old freshman from San Antonio, Texas, went to Gallaudet in his freshman year there. He was away from home for the first time, and his father said, Gallaudet, of course, very prominent school in Washington, D.C. for the hearing-impaired.

And Ben Varner, as his family says, was deaf. He was killed by multiple stab wounds to his face and body. His body was found early Saturday morning, as I said, after the fire alarms went off in his dormitory. And possible relationship perhaps to the murder of Eric Plunkett, a 19-year-old student who was also living in the same dormitory at Gallaudet. He was beaten to death in September, very same dormitory at Gallaudet University. But local police say they have no sign of any connection between these murders. Of course, there's considerable investigation going on. The father of Ben Varner and his sister, Jennifer, speaking, a very difficult and emotional news conference in Washington today. CNN continuing to follow this developing story and will being you details as we learn them. Now we return to TALKBACK LIVE and Bobbie Battista -- Bobbie.



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