Cody Cousins was by most accounts a “normal college student” — quiet, intelligent, motivated but sometimes aggressive about his academic career at Purdue University.
Andrew Boldt was outgoing, bright and “a model for student involvement” on the 40,000-student campus.
Both seniors pursued electrical engineering degrees from one of the most highly-regarded and rigorous programs in the country and worked as teaching assistants for the same professor.
Those who knew the pair could not offer an explanation for why Cousins targeted Boldt in a deadly confrontation Tuesday that sent Purdue into a lockdown, and was the first of two fatal shootings on college campuses this week.
Police said Cousins entered the electrical engineering building, shot and stabbed Boldt multiple times as students watched in horror, left the weapons behind and sat outside until officers arrived. On Thursday, the Springboro High School graduate was charged with one count of murder and told the state of Indiana has the option to pursue the death penalty in his case.
The campus was “stunned and saddened” as students returned to classes Thursday, and many said they were unsure of how to move forward after losing a popular peer in a senseless act.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Andrew Matyasovski, a computer engineering student whose off-campus apartment is next to Cousins’ unit on West Stadium Avenue.
He said he often spoke to Cousins through their thin apartment walls and just weeks earlier watched the movie “Step Brothers” in the bedroom of the apartment Cousins shares with two other roommates, who have declined to comment.
“I couldn’t imagine Cody doing something like this,” Matyasovski said. “I’ve gone over it. Obviously thought about all my interactions with him. I could never have seen this coming.
“Even when the police showed up here asking about him… I couldn’t imagine that he was actually the shooter. I was just in shock like everyone else. There must be some reason, but I have no idea what it might be.”
The Purdue shooting preceded Friday’s shooting at South Carolina State University, where a 19-year-old student is accused of killing a junior engineering technology student, who also played on the school’s football team, after an argument outside a dormitory.
Cousins waited for police
Matyasovski also took several classes with Boldt, a West Bend, Wis. native, and described him as “a really nice, genuine guy. Very open, outgoing person and really smart, too.
“I couldn’t image why someone would have it out for him,” he said. “I still haven’t totally come to grips with everything that’s happened.”
So far, authorities have not addressed a possible motive, only confirming that Boldt was allegedly Cousins’ lone target. The only details about the incident come from an affidavit of probable cause released Thursday by Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Patrick Harrington. It provides an account of the events shortly after Purdue and West Lafayette police received multiple emergency calls of a campus shooting at 12:03 p.m. Tuesday.
When police arrived, they saw several people “fleeing” from the building. Witnesses initially told police that a man fired several shots inside a basement classroom. Students said there was confusion about whether multiple shooters were involved.
West Lafayette police Officer Kevin Coomey was the first responder on scene and found Cousins outside the building “sitting on the ground with his hands behind his head. He had blood on his hands and clothes,” according to the affidavit. Coomey immediately took Cousins into custody.
Inside, police found Boldt’s body, marked by knife and gunshot wounds. “Police located a handgun on the ground along with several spent shell castings and a knife,” the affidavit said.
One student described a graphic scene his classmates witnessed. Andrew Pawling told the independent student newspaper, the Purdue Exponent, that he turned around after hearing a “pop” sound inside the laboratory classroom and saw Boldt, his teaching assistant, fall to the floor. “The guy got on top of him and then shot him in the face, once or twice and maybe two more times,” Pawling said.
Harrington said surveillance video also shows Cousins inside the building.
During his court hearing on Thursday, Cousins remained emotionless and briefly answered questions posed by Superior Court Magistrate Sean M. Persin in a courtroom inside the Tippecanoe County Jail. His father, mother and sister — who attends Ball State University — sat quietly behind a glass partition as Persin entered a not guilty plea on Cousins’ behalf.
Cousins is being held without bail, pending his trial, tentatively scheduled for April 22.
If convicted, Cousins faces 45 to 65 years in prison — 55 years if no mitigating or aggravating factors are found, authorities said. His next court appearance is scheduled on Feb. 24 before Superior Court II Judge Thomas Busch.
‘Not who Cody is’
Cousins and Boldt were teaching assistants for electrical engineering courses, according to the department’s website. Cousins was an assistant for Introduction to Digital System Design, a course taught by professors David G. Meyer and Cordelia Brown. Boldt was an assistant for Microprocessor System Design and Interfacing, also taught by Meyer.
Boldt, an Eagle Scout, has been described by teachers and friends as an exceptional and enthusiastic person and student who was active in several campus groups.
“Through his work, I knew him to be a wonderful person, very pleasant. I can’t imagine anyone not liking him,” Meyer told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
But Ashley Eidsmore, a graduate teaching assistant in the engineering school who was in nearby classroom at the time of the shooting, told The Associated Press some of her lab mates who worked closely with Cousins complained that he was a “just all-around rude individual.”
Cousins graduated in 2008 from Springboro, where his high school yearbook shows him smiling in several pictures.
During his senior year, a Clearcreek Twp. police officer sent Cousins and another juvenile “on their way” in October 2007 after neighbors reported a suspicious car parked at the dead end of a township road near his home, according to the incident report.
Still, those who knew Cousins said Tuesday’s tragedy does not align with the person they know.
“He does not to fit the stereotype we have of someone who commits something like this,” said Springboro School Board Member Ron Malone, Cousins’ former high school principal. “He was an active young man. He was an outgoing young man.”
Cousins is shown grinning in a yearbook photo as a member of the school’s info tech vocational course. The team won a regional competition in Cincinnati, with Cousins topping competitors in the Cisco Network Administrator event, according to the yearbook.
He was also a member of the school’s Academic Challenge team, the ski and snowboard club and the Business Professionals of America.
Since Tuesday, Malone said he has spoken to several people who expressed disbelief about Cousins’ case and the Springboro’s community ties to the latest in a growing series of school shootings.
“You just don’t think of this type of thing having a local connections,” he said. “While it’s becoming more common, it still is rare.”
Cousins and Jen Blue, another 2008 graduate, were pictured smiling in the yearbook standing behind the counter at the Cold Stone Creamery and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory shop, next to the Dorothy Lane Market.
Blue was among many classmates who took to social media to express shock after the shooting.
On Facebook, she wrote: “I think I can attest more than anyone that this is not who Cody is, and it absolutely breaks my heart to think of what he could have been going through to push him to do this. I feel like a piece of me just died. He and his family need support now more than ever. My heart is there with both him and his victim.”
Cousins’ parents, Rusty and Wendy Cousins, moved to Warsaw, Ind., about five years ago, shortly after facing foreclosures on homes in Clearcreek Twp. in 2007 and Vandalia in 2009, according to property records.
His mother — a Wright State University graduate and who goes by her maiden name, Wendy F. Melancon — once served as clinical operations coordinator of the Counseling Center at the university and as director of the Preble County office of the Good Samaritan Hospital Counseling and Treatment Centers. She is currently assistant county director/psychologist at The Bowen Center in Warsaw.
Cousins previously had one case in Tippecanoe County courts, a 2012 public intoxication charge dropped in January 2013 after he paid $379 and completed a year without violating terms of a diversion plea, according to court records.
Cousins’ lawyer, Robert W. Gevers II of Fort Wayne, said the family has declined to comment.
‘A strong campus’
Purdue students were notified by text message that there was a shooter on campus around 12:15 p.m. Tuesday. Some described being in classrooms with doors that could not lock, so professors stopped classes and turned off lights.
“We never really expected this to happen,” said Trevor Kyle, a sophomore nuclear engineering student. “A lot of people still, this is weighing heavily on them, and they just think a little more before they go outside.”
Jacob Eldridge, a senior accounting major who was in the library at the time of the shooting, said the campus’ routine returned Thursday, at least on the surface.
“Everyone knows what happened, but we’re not really talking about it,” he said.
But the mood was different, “mournful,” said Nolan Johnson, a freshman engineering student. “Not really anyone wants to talk about it too much right now. We’re just trying to get on and move on.”
Johnson was in a nearby engineering building at the time of the attack, and he was told there was a possible second shooter in his building, which turned out to be a false alarm. He and about 70 other students crowded into a small storage room and locked the door.
“You didn’t know if someone was going to come in with a gun into your classroom. You just play a lot of scenarios out in your head about what might happen,” he said.
Johnson said it has been difficult to move forward. “You just have to take it a day at a time,” he said. “Take every day as it’s your last, because you really don’t know what could happen.”
Still students could not offer any additional safety measures they think should be put in place following the shooting.
“It’s scary, but there’s nothing you can do except hope that something like this doesn’t happen again,” said Omar Shtayyeh, a sophomore finance major and a Dayton native. He was in an economics class in the building where the shooting occurred, and was told to evacuate by police.
“To be honest, I thought it was a drill,” he said.
Melissa Hunt, an elementary education major, was across campus in a classroom that could not be locked at the time. Still, she said she feels safe on campus. “You never expect it to happen at Purdue,” she said.
Hunt said since Tuesday, alumni have reached out to students to support them and the community has come together.
“It’s going to take time, but Purdue is a strong campus,” Hunt said.
On Friday, Purdue President Mitch E. Daniels Jr. sent a letter to the college community saying Boldt’s murder “has left us all stunned and saddened, but typical of Boilermakers, people have pulled together to support each other and demonstrate what a remarkably caring and compassionate community ours is.”
Daniels, the former two-term Indiana governor, said he plans to attend Boldt’s funeral Mass on Tuesday in West Bend. A university spokeswoman said Purdue has begun the process to award Boldt a posthumous degree.
The Boldt family has expressed appreciation for an outpouring of support, but asked for privacy.
Always willing to help
Like Cousins, Boldt was drawn to computers and displayed a willingness to help high school and college students with computer issues and class assignments. For the past two summers, Boldt interned at John Deere in Silvis, Ill., and had accepted a full-time position he would have assumed following his graduation in May .
The Rev. Warren Sazama, president of Marquette University High where Boldt graduated in 2010, told the Christian Science Monitor that Boldt’s family is overwhelmed in grief.
“The mother said, ‘You don’t expect to get up in the morning and expect your son to be one in a million for a tragedy like this to happen,’ ” he said.
In lieu of flowers, Boldt’s family has established a scholarship to provide financial assistance to eighth-grade students who plan to attend either his alma mater, Marquette University High School in Milwaukee or Divine Savior Holy Angels High School.
Malone said the Purdue shooting has prompted some soul searching in Springboro.
“It always causes a district to do some self-analysis,” he said. “Was there anything when he was a student here that could have given us a clue? That this was a possibility?”
He said all educators could benefit from taking more time to focus on students’ social and emotional needs.
“We have to continue to look at our students, look at their social and emotional needs, because you just never know, you never know what could be troubling a young person,” he said.
More online: Explore our interactive map for details about each state’s stance on the guns on campus debate. View it at MyDaytonDailyNews.com/local.