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Lost Potential: Two Honors Students and 'Best Friends' and One Tragic, Violent Night

Police say Mark Edward Waugh, of Great Falls, was stabbed to death this weekend.

Mark Edward Waugh, 23, of Great Falls was found dead early Sunday in an apartment in Silver Spring, Md. Photo from jmu.edu
Mark Edward Waugh, 23, of Great Falls was found dead early Sunday in an apartment in Silver Spring, Md. Photo from jmu.edu

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.

This article was originally published Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013.

Burton Tracy October 16, 2013 at 12:13 PM
No one deserves to die for cheating just leave them.There is someone better out there Dont sit in prison over a cheater.
Irish1952 October 16, 2013 at 12:35 PM
What is interesting about the article is all the praise it has for Mark, when Mark betrayed his best friend. I would not praise that kind of person. Not saying he deserved to die, but at the very least he should have known the defestation his actions would cause as should have the girl. Frankly, based on all of their actions, I have no praise for any of them, just because they were great students did not mean they were intelligent, or they would not have done any of the acts committed by any of them. My heart goes out to all of their families.
Teresa October 16, 2013 at 10:42 PM
No one knows what went on in that apartment except for 3 people and one of them is dead. It is entirely possible that Waugh did not cheat with his best friends girl and that no one cheated on Gupta. Perhaps with all of that alcohol he came out paranoid and started stabbing. We do know that Gupta has changed his story twice. First he said he stabbed Waugh because he cheated, then, later at the police station Gupta told police Waugh threatened to harm him and his family (nice move thought better of it and decided it play the self defense card). Respected people are saying that Waugh was team player sacrificing himself for the team. It's not biased reporting. Perhaps no one is stepping forward to say nice things about Gupta because they can't. I have heard that if Gupta lost at a tennis match he would keep slamming his racket at anything available. Gupta was not a team player but more of a one man show. He showed rage every time he didn't win. Perhaps he was harboring jealousy toward his friend Waugh. This time it was a knife instead of a racket and the target was Waugh.
CJ October 16, 2013 at 11:19 PM
Teresa...I think you and I think a lot alike about this...good comment. Neither of these three people seem decent. People reap what they sow, and make their own beds.

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