Freinds and family said their final goodbyes Monday to Harsha Maddula, the New Hyde Park teenager and Norhwestern University sophomore who was found dead in a suburban Chicago harbor last week after he went missing days prior.
Sushma Maddula stood in front of a microphone on Friday, the morning after the body of her cousin was pulled from Wilmette Harbor in Illnois, and fought back tears as she spoke to the media on behalf of her family about the ensuing investigation into Harsha’s death.
“This is a huge tragedy, and the least we ask for is some closure.” Sushma said.
Harsha went missing on Sept. 22 after leaving an off-campus party. The teen’s cell phone last sent out a signal early in the morning by the harbor, drawing divers and search teams to scour the area.
During the press conference, Sushma questioned the gaps in the events of his disappearance. Sushma said that some media outlets reported that Harsha physically left the party while there is no evidence to prove that. She also pointed out that the cellphone sent out the signal and there was no indication that he used it.
“Half of these statements going around are all implications; this is why we need to know, and why this investigation cannot stop anytime soon.”
The Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled Harsha’s death as a drowning, with no evidence of foul play. Toxicology results will not be available until a few weeks, and those results can help find the answer to if Harsha was taking his medication for diabetes.
“Wouldn’t he be too weak to walk to the harbor to jump?” Sushma said answering speculation that the McCormick School of Engineering student wasn’t on it medication.
“There’s nothing about this kid that indicates he would’ve jumped into the lake,” Carol Sciannemeo, a retired NYPD and now a Professor of Criminal Justice at Saint Leo University said. Harsha’s grandfather was referred to consult to her through a friend following the disappearance.
“He wanted to be a doctor so badly he begged his parents so he could come to Northwestern. He wanted to come here so badly he came here a week early to help freshmen move in,” Sushma said.
Sciannemeo said as a gut reaction the whole situation doesn’t feel right to her. One of her concerns is the neighborhood being predominately white, and this being the second death of a young person of color within a two week period. “It could be a pattern,” Sciannemeo said.
Evanston Police Commander Jay Parrott said the investigation is reviewing witness interviews.
“Some people will definitely be interviewed again,” Parrott told the Press.
Parrott also said the autopsy cannot reveal the exact time of death due to the amount of time the body had been in the water. The police approximated the time of death from Harsha’s cellphone, which was found on his body, from a ping around 1 a.m. on Sept. 23.
The funeral was held Monday in Harsha’s hometown of New Hyde Park. During the service, words the sophomore had written for a college were read aloud which echoed the kind of person his family remembers him by.
“The mind of an engineer, the ethics of a scientist, the soul of a poet, and the skill of an academic – these are the attributes of the developed person,” he wrote. “My goals, my obligations, and my dreams are the manifestation of the sophisticated man. To become less than a genius but more than ordinary is what I hope to do. But then again, the truly advanced don’t work within boundaries, they redefine them.”