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Missing Northwestern Student’s Body Pulled From Lake Michigan

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Harsha Maddula

Northwestern University student Harsha Maddula, 19, has been missing since early Saturday morning. (Credit: Maddula family)

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UPDATED 09/28/12 5:21 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Northwestern University students are mourning one of their own, after the body of missing sophomore Harsha Maddula was pulled from Wilmette Harbor on Lake Michigan.

Police have confirmed that a body pulled from the harbor was Maddula’s. The 18-year-old sophomore from the Long Island town of New Hyde Park, N.Y., was last seen early Saturday, leaving an off-campus party.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports


The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office ruled Maddula’s death was an undetermined drowning, meaning it is unknown whether it was an accident, suicide or homicide. Investigators say there were no signs of foul play on his body.

Maddula’s family still has many unanswered questions. His cousin, Sushma Maddula, urged students at the party to help provide the answers.

His disappearance prompted a series of searches by police and volunteers and anguished entreaties for help from the student’s family.

Now, just one day into the new fall quarter, counselors will be on campus to talk with grieving students.  Hundreds gathered Friday night on campus to honor Maddula’s memory.

The students say there is closure now that Maddula’s body has been found, but many more questions remain about why he ended up in the water.

Maddula was last seen around 12:30 a.m. Saturday, as he left the off-campus party in the 2000 block of Ridge Avenue in Evanston. Shortly before he disappeared, Maddula sent a text message indicating that he was returning to his room in the Public Affairs Residential College dorm, but Northwestern officials said there was no sign of the student on the dorm’s security cameras or keycard logs.

No one had seen him since.

After nearly six days of frantic searching and anguished tears, his body was found just before 7 p.m. Thursday between two boats in Wilmette Harbor, near Sheridan Road bridge.

His wallet, student ID card and cell phone were found in his pocket.

Maddula was reportedly on campus a week before the start of school to help new students and freshmen move in to his dorm.

He had recently been diagnosed with diabetes.

Maddula’s family had flown in from Long Island, N.Y., earlier this week, helping police in this search.

Hundreds of students and community members had joined in as well, searching up until the body was found.

“Obviously, a tragedy like this is something that affects the entire campus, and we had hoped for a different ending,” Northwestern spokesman Alan Cubbage said.

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro notified the university community through a written statement.

“On behalf of Northwestern University, I extend our deepest sympathies to Harsha’s family and to his many friends at Northwestern,” the statement said. “Our thoughts are with them. The loss of one member of the Northwestern community deeply affects us all, and as we start the new academic year, normally a time of joy and optimism, we do so this year with a heavy heart.”

Fellow Northwestern students continue to wonder what exactly led to Maddula’s death.

“Of course, it raises so many more questions that I’m sure, not just his family has, that all of us students have, that Northwestern have. You know, at least it’s an answer to one question,” one student said.

Meanwhile, Maddula’s grief-stricken family was seen late Thursday night leaving NorthShore Evanston Hospital. They were taken to the hospital as a precaution, because Maddula’s mother, Dhanalakshmi Maddula, reportedly fainted when police notified them that their son had died.

Madudla’s aunt, Dr. Surekha Madulla, said the family is grateful for the outpouring of support and the large number of volunteers who came forward to help.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office ruled Maddula’s death was an undetermined drowning, meaning it is unknown whether it was an accident, suicide or homicide. Investigators say there were no signs of foul play on his body.

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