Authorities, family await toxicology results in Harsha Maddula investigation

Patrick Svitek, Online Managing Editor

The weeks-old investigation into Harsha Maddula’s disappearance is growing increasingly dependent on toxicology results that authorities hope can shed light on some uncertainties about the McCormick sophomore’s final steps.

Evanston Police Cmdr. Jay Parrott said Monday that those results could help answer a critical question when they are released next month.

“Was this an accident or was there more to it?” Parrott asked.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office still has not determined how Maddula drowned in Wilmette Harbor. His body was found six days after he was last seen leaving an off-campus party in September. Spokespeople in the office have told The Daily not to expect any updates on Maddula’s autopsy report until toxicology results return.

One key detail those results will reveal is how intoxicated Maddula was the night he vanished. Witness statements have already confirmed that Maddula was drinking alcohol, Parrott said.

The results typically take six to eight weeks after the initial autopsy, which was conducted Sept. 28, the day after a fisherman found Maddula’s body floating in Lake Michigan.

“You have to wait,” Maddula family spokeswoman Padma Sonti said Monday. “It’s just a matter of waiting for information now.”

For several hours Saturday, six EPD officers and a sergeant knocked on doors and distributed flyers along the two-mile stretch of Ridge Avenue that they believe Maddula trekked before winding up in the harbor.

The canvassing turned up no new information, Parrott said.

Meanwhile, Maddula’s parents are having a “very hard time” adjusting to their day-to-day lives in the wake of their son’s death, Sonti said.

Prasad and Dhanalakshmi Maddula recently attended a memorial event at Harsha’s high school in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

“Everybody’s trying to show that they’re there for them,” Sonti said. “I don’t think they’ll ever be OK.”

University President Morton Schapiro told The Daily on Monday that he last spoke with Harsha’s parents shortly before their son’s body was found Sept. 27.

That conversation happened as Schapiro was heading to the airport for a fundraising event with alumni in New York, NU spokesman Al Cubbage confirmed Tuesday.

“It’s just a nightmare,” Schapiro said. “You begin every year hoping and praying that students will be safe.”