Police re-examine interviews in Harsha Maddula investigation, funeral planned for Monday

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Mariam Gomaa/Daily senior staffer

Maddula family members walk away after a news conference Friday. Sushma Maddula, Harsha Maddula’s cousin, told reporters that her family still wants answers about the McCormick sophomore’s death.

Patrick Svitek, Online Managing Editor

Evanston Police are revisiting interviews in the investigation of Harsha Maddula’s death as the McCormick sophomore’s family demands more answers about the fuzzy narrative surrounding his disappearance.

“Who was Harsha with last? Who did he speak to last? I still don’t know. All these questions need to be answered,” Sushma Maddula, Harsha’s cousin, told reporters Friday. “And we really need the students to speak up. Something happened at this party.”

EPD Cmdr. Jay Parrott told The Daily on Sunday that investigators are re-examining interviews with anyone who may have crossed paths with Maddula before he was last seen leaving an off-campus party in the early morning hours of Sept. 22.

Parrott said taking a closer look at the interviews will hopefully provide a “clearer picture” of what transpired after Harsha stepped out of a Ridge Avenue house shortly after midnight. Double-checking the interviews should also help authorities figure out whether any information is being withheld, Parrott said.

On Thursday evening, Harsha’s body was found near Wilmette Harbor in Lake Michigan. Nearly two dozen law enforcement agencies and fire departments had combed through the waters a day before to no avail.

Harsha died as a result of drowning, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Officials from the office do not know yet whether the drowning was an accident.

Toxicology results will not be available for several weeks, Parrott said.

The identification of the body sent shockwaves through NU’s campus on the first day of classes, with hundreds of students gathering on Deering Meadow on Friday night to honor the Long Island native.

Family members have characterized Harsha as a devoted bookworm who was not likely to put himself in a dangerous situation. He “begged” his parents to send him to Northwestern to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor, Sushma told reporters.

Harsha’s parents arrived on campus late Monday, hours after the University sent out an emergency alert about their son’s disappearance. According to family friend and spokeswoman Padma Sonti, Prasad and Dhanalakshmi Maddula left Evanston on Saturday but will remain involved in the investigation into Harsha’s death from their home in New York.

Harsha’s mother reportedly fainted and was rushed to the hospital after investigators from the Wilmette Police Department found Harsha’s body between several boats near the Sheridan Road Bridge said the tragic news was “just emotionally too much to handle” for Harsha’s mother but she is now doing OK.

“They stayed positive throughout,” Sushma said of Harsha’s parents. “Not one time did anyone in the family say, ‘What if?'”

After a news conference Friday, Sonti told reporters that the Maddulas remain dissatisfied with the level of detail surrounding their son’s last known movements.

“As a family, no information is ever enough,” she said.

Harsha’s funeral is planned for Monday in Garden City Park, N.Y.