Autopsy: SIU student likely died of hypothermia

By Jonathan Bullington

The Southern Illinois University student from suburban Morton Grove who police found dead Tuesday in a wooded area in downstate Carbondale, Ill., died as a result of hypothermia, according to the results of a preliminary autopsy conducted Wednesday.

The Jackson County Coroner’s Office said they found no evidence of foul play in the death of Pravin Varughese, 19, a sophomore criminal justice major who had been reported missing last week.

Results of a toxicology test are not expected for another two or three weeks, the coroner’s office said.

Police in Carbondale said they found Varughese’s body about 9:45 a.m. Tuesday. He had last been seen around 11 p.m. Feb. 12 leaving a party about 3 miles from where his body was discovered.

Authorities said Varughese has walked into the wooded area after getting into a “dispute” with a male he met at the party. That man was attempting to drive Varughese home when the dispute began, police said.

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Police are not saying much about the dispute, other than they believe Varughese exited the vehicle of his own accord.

His sister, Priya Varughese, 20, had said phone records showed her brother called a friend in Chicago at 12:30 a.m. Thursday, about 90 minutes after he reportedly left the party.

The friend told her it sounded like her brother might have been running or arguing with someone, she said.

Varughese’s Twitter account showed a tweet at 11:17 p.m. that night reading: “Bloody knuckles … guess I was in a fight #backdown.”

But police said Varughese’s body showed no obvious signs of trauma, and no evidence indicates he had been in a physical altercation.

Varughese was wearing jeans and a shirt when he entered the woods, police said, and the area’s “difficult terrain and low temperatures are believed to have contributed to Pravin’s difficulty finding his way out of the wooded area.”

Varughese’s family and friends had traveled to Carbondale to assist in the search. A reward grew to $15,000 for information on his whereabouts.

Police said the person who gave Varughese a ride came forward on his own to share the information with police, but not until Monday night. They would not say why the person did not come forward sooner.

Authorities had not previously searched the wooded area where Varughese was found, saidCarbondale Sgt. Corey Kemp.

Family members were not available to comment. Friends of Varughese described him as a warm and funny person who made friends easily.

“He was just one of those people you couldn’t be upset around,” said Dakota Reynolds, 22, a former SIU student who lived next to Varughese last year. “The whole story doesn’t seem real to me. It’s not like Pravin to do something like that.”

University Chancellor Rita Cheng issued a statement offering condolences to Varughese’s family and urging grieving students to visit the campus counseling center if needed.

A wake for Varughese is planned for 3-9 p.m. Friday at Chicago Mar Thoma Church, 240 Potter Road in Des Plaines.

The funeral is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the church, with interment to follow at Maryhill Cemetery, 8600 Milwaukee Ave. in Niles.