The Daily Northwestern

Updated: EPD concludes investigation into Maddula’s death, University responds

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant In Focus Editor

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Updated, 9:30 p.m. Monday:

The University sent the following statement from Patricia Telles Irvin, vice president for student affairs, to The Daily on Monday night:

“On behalf of Northwestern University, I offer our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Harsha Maddula. As President Schapiro said last fall when we learned of Harsha’s death, the loss of one member of our community affects us all.

We are saddened by the fact that alcohol may have been a factor in Harsha’s death. Northwestern has long had in place policies and programs to address alcohol and substance abuse, including required alcohol education for all new students, intervention training for students, counseling services for alcohol and substance abuse problems, and disciplinary rules that address standards students are expected to meet. The University continuously assesses how to address this problem, which is not unique to Northwestern, and as part of that effort, funds academic research into substance abuse and related problems on college and university campuses.

Again, we extend our sincere condolences to Harsha’s family and to his friends here at Northwestern.”

Original story:

Evanston Police told The Daily on Monday they have concluded the death of McCormick sophomore Harsha Maddula was “accidental in nature with … a contributing factor of alcohol.”

Evanston Police Cmdr. Jay Parrott said police made this conclusion after receiving toxicology results from the Cook County medical examiner’s office that indicated Maddula’s blood alcohol level was 1.5 times the legal limit of 0.08 and a consistent urinalysis test. Although the medical examiner officially ruled the case “undetermined,” police determined alcohol played a role based on these test results and witnesses who observed Maddula consuming alcoholic beverages and smoking marijuana at an off-campus party where he was last seen on Sept. 22.

“All people react to alcohol consumption differently,” Parrott said. “It’s very hard to predict how his reaction occurred.”

Maddula’s body was recovered from the Wilmette Harbor on Sept. 27. The next day, a post-mortem examination concluded the cause of Maddula’s death was drowning. Parrott said there were no signs of foul play, and Maddula was found with all of his possessions.

“His body had no indications at all of any type of trauma in terms of blunt trauma or trauma that was forced by someone else,” Parrott said.

Parrott said Maddula did have bruising on his head, but the medical examiner concluded that bruising was consistent with falling into the water or his head brushing up against a pier support or boat during the five days before his body was recovered. Parrott also said Maddula was found with his pants zipper undone.

“This is a possible indicator that he may have stopped to urinate at the harbor,” Parrott said.

He explained this indicates that Maddula may have fallen if he had attempted to urinate along the side near concrete or if he walked out onto the pier. Parrott said Maddula’s family has expressed he was a strong swimmer, but potential factors that may have contributed to his drowning include the low water levels of the harbor at the time of his death as well as the possibility that he ingested water when he fell into the harbor.

Parrott said at this time there is no evidence that Maddula’s death was a suicide, after a police examination of his bedroom and laptop.

“There are no indicators that he had any desire to harm himself,” Parrott said.

Parrott also said it did not appear that Maddula’s diabetes played any role in his death. Maddula was recently diagnosed as diabetic, but the medical examiner’s report showed his glucose levels were normal.

Parrott said if any new information that was verifiable were to come forward, the police would look into it, but this is their determination upon receiving the results of the medical examiner’s report about two weeks ago.

“At this time, there doesn’t appear to be any more information other than what we’ve developed over the last five months,” Parrott said.

— Cat Zakrzewski

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About the Writer
Cat Zakrzewski, In Focus Editor

Cat Zakrzewski is the In Focus editor of The Daily and a Medill junior. Her past positions include assistant summer editor, Campus editor, Holiday Guide...