The Daily Northwestern

As police close investigation, questions remain in Maddula’s death

Police announced Monday they closed the investigation into the death of Harsha Maddula. Although the investigation is over, they still do not know why the McCormick sophomore walked north to the Wilmette Harbor, where his body was recovered days later.

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Police announced Monday they closed the investigation into the death of Harsha Maddula. Although the investigation is over, they still do not know why the McCormick sophomore walked north to the Wilmette Harbor, where his body was recovered days later.

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant In Focus Editor

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As Evanston Police close the five-month investigation into the death of McCormick sophomore Harsha Maddula, many questions remain unanswered.

Evanston Police Department spokesman Cmdr. Jay Parrott told The Daily on Monday the manner of Maddula’s death has been deemed accidental, with a contributing factor of alcohol consumption. The body of the 18-year-old was recovered in the Wilmette Harbor on Sept. 27.

Parrott told The Daily on Tuesday the EPD does not have any leads on why Maddula may have walked north to Wilmette Harbor from the off-campus party in the 2000 block of Ridge Avenue, where he was last seen around midnight Sept. 22. The Daily reported in September that Weinberg sophomore Linzy Wagner called Maddula at approximately 12:35 a.m., at which time Maddula told her he was back in his room in the Public Affairs Residential College. Video surveillance footage from the dorm, however, revealed Maddula did not return to his room, according to The Daily’s report.

According to a statement from Parrott to the media, cell phone tracking records indicate Maddula walked from the 2000 block of Ridge Avenue to Wilmette Harbor between 12:15 a.m. and 1:07 a.m., when his cell phone signal stopped.

Parrott said the Evanston Police believe Maddula entered the west side of the harbor, likely between the far boat slips and fencing, based on where his body was found. He told The Daily on Monday that it was possible Maddula fell into the harbor while attempting to urinate, based on the fact he was found with his pants unzipped.

He also said the police are no longer looking for evidence of Maddula falling into the harbor from video surveillance. Due to lighting, Parrott said cameras from the nearby Baha’i Temple did not reveal viable images of the area where Maddula was believed to have fallen into the water. He said there was no sign of Maddula on the Coast Guard’s security cameras in the area either.

“We’re done,” Parrott said. “No cameras cover that area of the harbor.”

The media statement also said police have explored the option of recovering data from Maddula’s iPhone, which was recovered on his body and submerged in the harbor for five days. The statement said they are continuing to explore this option, but it is not a likely lead due to the water damage the phone sustained.

Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs, emailed the Northwestern community Tuesday about the investigation’s conclusion and said she was “saddened” that alcohol played a role in Maddula’s death. The email expressed the University’s condolences to Maddula’s family and friends and reminded students of available resources on campus to help with concerns surrounding substance abuse.

“This should be a time for all of us to learn from the most difficult of losses, to reflect on what each of us can do to reduce harmful behavior and to take care of each other,” Telles-Irvin wrote in the email.

— 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 editor, assistant In Focus editor, assistant Campus editor, copy editor, photographer and reporter. She is from Ambler, Penn., and has interned at The Chicago Sun-Times Homicide Watch, Northwestern Magazine and Montgomery...