Westerlo man charged with murder

— Photo from the New York State Police

Benjamin Rauf

Benjamin Rauf, the grandson of a Westerlo dairy farmer, is accused of murdering a classmate from the Temple University law school.

Rauf, 25, of Westerlo, is charged with first-degree murder and possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, according to the New Castle County Police Department in Delaware.

Rauf’s grandmother, the wife of dairy farmer George Rauf of Medusa, said on Wednesday night, “All I can do is say my prayers and hope we come out of this somehow.”

Shazim Uppal, 27, of Hockessin, a growing bedroom community on the northern edge of Delaware, was found dead in his car last month in the parking lot of a health-care facility, according to the New Castle County Police Department. Hockessin is about 40 miles from Philadelphia where Temple University is located.

On Aug. 24, at about 7:02 p.m., “a caller observed a black Audi sitting in the parking lot an unusually long time,” said Gustavo Zeissig, a sergeant with the New Castle County Police, during a press conference on Wednesday.

Officers found the dead man had “several gunshot wounds to the upper torso,” Zeissig said. “Investigators concluded the death was not a random act of violence as a substantial amount of marijuana was recovered from inside the vehicle belonging to Shazim.”

An extensive three-week investigation followed; the collection of physical evidence helped identify Rauf as a suspect, the New Castle County Police said.

Rauf was taken into custody by the New York State Police as he left his home on Monday evening, and is currently being held by the state of New York, awaiting extradition.

John Kolach, a sergeant with the New York State Police communications headquarters in Albany, said on Wednesday night no information was available on the arrest. “It’s the first I’ve heard of it,” he told The Enterprise.

The Daily Freeman, a newspaper in Kingston, New York, in a list of arrests from September 2014, cited Benjamin Rauf, 24, of Philadelphia, charged by State Police in Coxsackie with criminal possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor, and with possession of marijuana, a violation; he was released with tickets for Greenville Town Court.

On his LinkedIn page, Rauf describes himself as a “legal services professional” and lists his education as first earning an associate of arts degree at the State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill in 2010, then earning a bachelor of arts degree in political science and government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2012, and finally earning a doctor of law degree from Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law in 2015.

Similarly, Uppal’s LinkedIn page lists him as attending Temple University’s law school from 2012 to 2015, the same time as Rauf.

Contacted for comment, the dean of the law school, Joanne Epps, responded with this statement, "The loss of Shazim Uppal, a 2015 law school graduate, was obviously devastating. It was made all the more sad and difficult by the arrest of another recent graduate of the Temple Law School.”

Updated on Sept. 17, 2015 with a statement, once rleased, from the dean of the law school at Temple University.

More Hilltowns News

  • Kimberly Lovell

    Read or listen to Berne-Knox-Westerlo Board of Education incumbent Kimberly Lovell’s responses to questions from The Enterprise about the school’s budget; the relationship between a school board, district superintendent, and taxpayers; and what issues will be most critical to the district in the next three years.

  • According to the president of Hannay Reels, the company’s “essential” designation by the state, the layout of its facility, and a small-business loan have each allowed for a level of stability in the face of uncertainty.

  • As they each seek re-election to the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Board of Education unchallenged, Nathan Elble and Kimberly Lovell spoke with The Enterprise about their views on the school’s budget; the relationship between a school board, district superintendent, and taxpayers; and what issues will be most critical to the district in the next three years. 

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.