By Jason Spencer
By all accounts, Rahul Gupta and Mark Waugh — buddies for years who once attended high school honors class together — had everything going for them: Gupta was studying to become a doctor; Waugh was at Georgetown University Law Center.
Over the weekend, they gathered to celebrate Gupta's 24th birthday. Early Sunday morning, police found them both covered in blood in a high-rise apartment in Silver Spring, Md.
Along with friends, the group had been out celebrating and ended up back at the apartment to continue drinking, Gupta's girlfriend told the Washington Post.
Police arrived shortly before 3:30 a.m. to a bloody, chaotic scene, with the girl confused and Gupta apparently dazed. Waugh, pronounced dead at the scene soon afterward, had cuts and "defense-type injuries" about his body, according to the Post.
"My girl was cheating with my buddy. I walked in on them cheating and I killed my buddy,” he told detectives, according to the Washington Post's report of the charging documents.
Gupta, of McLean, is being held in Montgomery County, Md., jail under a $2 million bond. He is accused of stabbing to death Waugh, 23, of Great Falls.
Waugh excelled in his studies — at Langley High School, where he was an honor student, at James Madison University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 2012, and at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he was a first-year law student. Debate coaches around the country had named him one of the best in the United States.
As he grew, so, too, did his passion and skill for debating, it seems. His parting message to his alma mater was to encourage "anyone interested in honing their critical thinking skills to give debate a try."
'The Consummate Team Player'
Waugh was president of the debate team his senior year at James Madison. He won more debates than anyone in the university's history and the team finished with its highest rankings in each of Waugh's four years at the school.
Despite being a highly competitive activity, Waugh would consistently sacrifice his own success to make sure the team succeeded, JMU Debate Director Michael Davis told Patch in an email.
"Mark was the consummate team player," Davis stated. "Mark was a tenacious competitor who loved to win, but he was also a kind and compassionate teammate. Mark was even volunteering this year as an unpaid assistant coach. Many debaters who only knew Mark this semester are struggling to deal with his death. That’s how big his presence was."
The Breeze, the student newspaper at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, reported that Waugh was one of the top 30 debaters in the country.
Student Becomes Teacher
Davis said he talked to Waugh at least weekly since he graduated. Waugh would turn to Davis for advice, and then when Davis was going through personal and professional difficulties, their roles reversed. Davis turned to Waugh, and "there was not a time that talking to Mark did not make me feel better," he said.
"Mark was one of the best people I have ever met," Davis stated. "He possessed the ability to work extremely hard but never take any setback too seriously. He was kind and I think his number one desire in life was to make other people smile."
Waugh spent a year teaching debate tactics in Korea before heading to Georgetown.
"Rest in peace Mark Waugh, you inspired me to better myself in every way and I dream of one day being as incredible as you were," Aarash Heydari wrote on Twitter.
"You were an idol and an amazing debater," Aubtin Heydari added.
Trying to Move Forward
The Georgetown University Law Center issued the following statement about Waugh:
"He was a bright young man, full of potential. The Georgetown Law community is shocked and deeply saddened by this tragic loss. Counselors and chaplains will be available on campus. At this time, the investigation into Mark’s death is ongoing and we have no additional information to share. We are all keeping Mark’s family and friends in our thoughts and prayers."
Waugh's mother, Nancy, told the Gazette in Montgomery County that her son and Gupta had been "best friends" since high school.
David Barton, a James Madison alumnus who attended Langley with Waugh and Gupta, told the Breeze that Waugh was "an extremely smart kid" and that Gupta was "very, very intelligent."
Family and friends are understandably still reeling from the death.
"We're at a loss ourselves, trying to figure out ourselves at how to move forward without Mark," Bill Revillini, a friend of the Waugh family, told WJLA.