Alcohol a factor in student death: police

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The Evanston, Ill., Police Department has concluded the drowning death of Northwestern University sophomore Harsa Maddula was accidental with alcohol a “contributing factor” in the Garden City Park native’s death.

In a statement issued last week, Evanston Police Commander Jay Parrott said Maddula’s blood alcohol content was 1.5 times the legal limit of .08 percent, according to results of toxicology tests by the Cook County Medical Examiner. 

Urinalyasis was consistent with the toxicology results, Parrott said. 

Witnesses observed Maddula consuming alcohol and smoking marijuana at an off-campus party, according to the police statement.

“We feel that there’s a reasonable indication that it appears to be accidental with the contributing factor being alcohol consumption,” Parrott said in a phone interview.

Police had previously said they believed alcohol consumption could have been a factor in Maddula’s death after a second round of interviews with people who had been at the party.

The New Hyde Park Memorial High School graduate was last seen alive on Sept. 22, 2012 just after midnight. He apparently walked north to Wilmette Harbor, where his body was recovered from the water on Sept. 27 after being seen by fisherman in the harbor. 

Maddula’s phone cell phone records indicated he had a cell phone conversation at approximately 12:35 a.m. In that conversation, Parrott said Maddula told a friend who had been at the party that he was at his dormitory on the Northwestern campus.

“There’s definitely indicators that he was either disoriented by the consumption of alcohol or he purposely didn’t tell somebody the truth,” Parrott said.

A post mortem examination of Maddula’s body the day after it was recovered from Wilmette Harbor indicated he had died from drowning. The Cook County Medical Examiner has classified the “final manner” of his death as “undetermined,” according to the police statement, which said Maddula had suffered a bruise to his head consistent with falling into the harbor and “rubbing” against a wall, pier support or boat.

Maddula had been diagnosed with Type I diabetes shortly before starting his sophomore semester at Northwestern. Parrott said toxicology results indicated his glucose levels were “normal,” and did not reveal the presence of drugs in his bloodstream. 

Parrot said police did not believe Maddula’s use of marijuana the night he went missing was a contributing factor in his death.

Parrot said there are no indications that Maddula meant to harm himself and there is no evidence of foul play. Police said the cell phone was discovered on the body when it was recovered. Parrott said cell phone tracking records indicate that he walked due north from the location of the party on Ridge Avenue in Evanston to Wilmette Harbor.

“He made a choice to walk to the harbor. Whether he did that not knowing where he was going, we don’t know,” Parrott said.   

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