Morton Grove family of dead SIU student files lawsuit - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Morton Grove family of dead SIU student files lawsuit

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MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

The mother of a Southern Illinois University student who was found dead in February has filed a lawsuit against the city of Carbondale and a man she claims gave her son a ride before he disappeared.

Lovely Varughese of Morton Grove filed the suit Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court against that driver, as well as the city of Carbondale and its police chief, Jody O’Guinn.

Her son, 19-year-old Niles West graduate Pravin Varughese, went missing Feb. 12 after leaving a party in Carbondale, police and his family said at the time.

The Morton Grove native and criminal justice student was found dead nearly a week later in a wooded area near the 1400 block of East Main Street.

Police previously said Varughese accepted a ride from a recent acquaintance just before midnight that night, but got out of the vehicle following a dispute and fled into a wooded area.

The original autopsy, performed by the downstate Jackson County Coroner’s office, concluded he died of hypothermia, with no indications of trauma, Pioneer Press reported at the time. Carbondale police said they did not suspect foul play,

However, a second independently-performed autopsy found Varughese suffered “significant blunt force trauma to the head,” according to a summary provided Thursday by Jimmy Vachachira, the family’s attorney.

The second autopsy, performed by Dr. Ben Margolis of the Autopsy Center of Chicago, found Varughese suffered at least three separate head injuries and a defensive injury to his right arm, the summary said.

The autopsy did not rule on the immediate cause or manner of his death, but called the trauma an “underlying cause.” It also noted Varughese may have lived for some time after receiving the injuries, because the bruise on his arm showed early signs of healing.

The lawsuit claims wrongful death against the driver, claiming the man picked up Varughese on the road and later “hit [Varughese] in the head with a blunt force instrument causing his death.”

The suit goes on to say that a state trooper reported seeing a man “coming out of a particular wooded area,” and that the man said he had given a ride to someone who wandered off into the woods.

The trooper videotaped the incident, and the family claims Carbondale police failed to further investigate, the suit says.

The suit accuses the city and police of negligence, and seeks at least $1 million in damages.

O’Guinn said in an email Thursday that he is aware of the litigation, but referred comment to the city manager’s office. City Manager Kevin Baity declined to comment, saying the city has not yet been served with the suit.

“It has been frustrating for the family being kept in the dark,” Vachachira said in an email. “This complaint addresses Carbondale’s gross failure to investigate Pravin’s death. And another step in our vigorous pursuit for answers we believe the family rightfully deserves.”

The Jackson County State’s Attorney’s office continues to review the case, a source said.

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