Northwestern student Harsha Maddula's death ruled drowning

September 28, 2012 (WILMETTE, Ill.)

The Northwestern University community is mourning student after the sophomore's body was found Thursday night. He had been missing for about a week.

"They came here to take their boy home. Unfortunately, they're going to have to take their boy home in a different way," said family friend Padma Sonti.

At approximately 7 p.m. Thursday, as hundreds of Northwestern students gathered for a vigil for the missing 18-year-old sophomore, word spread that police had a break in the case: someone fishing in Wilmette Harbor had found a body floating in the water between docked boats.

"Maddula's wallet with his Northwestern ID card and his cell phone were found on the body. Wilmette police, who were on the scene, said there were no signs of foul play on the body," Alan Cubbage, Northwestern University vice president for university relations, said Thursday night.

Harsha Maddula's family was devastated and exhausted Friday and also planning a funeral. They say the 18-year-old was not suicidal, and they do not believe his diabetes played a role in his death.

They said they want authorities to take their investigation further.

"Well, something is there. We don't know what, but this is not the end of the answer for us," Sonti said.

Maddula was last seen early Saturday leaving an off-campus party approximately two miles away from the harbor. It is not known why or how he arrived at the harbor. Authorities also say they still need to determine a cause of death.

Earlier this week, police focused their search on the area around Wilmette Harbor after a nearby cell tower detected a signal from Maddula's cell phone.

The harbor is known as a tranquil spot to local boaters and fishermen.

"It's a beautiful setting. Usually, you can see the sun coming up on the Bahai Temple. It's kind of a place of peace. So, it's sad," fisherman Mike Jacobs said.

Meanwhile, Northwestern University made grief counselors available Friday after hundreds of students and community members spent days organizing search parties for Maddula.

"It's really a reality check," Northwestern University student Peter Carlin said. "It kind of shows us the responsibility that we have to take care of ourselves."

Friday is the second day of fall classes on campus at Northwestern University. School officials sent out an e-mail to students about the sad discovery.

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