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Missing NU student found in Wilmette Harbor

Missing Northwestern student HarshMaddula.

Missing Northwestern student Harsha Maddula.

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Updated: September 27, 2012 11:20PM



EVANSTON — The body of a missing Northwestern University student was found at Wilmette Harbor, school officials said late Thursday night.

Harsha Maddula, a sophomore studying biomedicine who had dreams of becoming a doctor, disappeared after attending an off-campus party Sept. 21.

Emergency crews had been searching for the missing sophomore on the Wilmette Harbor after tracking his cell phone there — but didn’t find a trace of the Long Island native until Thursday.

Northwestern Police were notified shortly before 7 p.m. by Wilmette Police that a body had been found floating between two boats in the Wilmette Harbor east of a bridge near Sheridan Road, NU spokesman Alan K. Cubbage said Thursday night at a news conference.

“A body that has been recovered from the water in Wilmette Harbor earlier tonight appears to be that of a missing Northwestern University student, Harsha Maddula,” Cubbage said.

Cubbage said he does not know who spotted the body. Maddula’s cell phone and wallet — which had a college identification card in it —were found on the body, and authorities believe that he walked from the party to the harbor.

In a statement, NU President Morton Schapiro extended the school’s “deepest sympathies” to Maddula’s family.

“The loss of one member of the Northwestern community deeply affects us all,” he said in the statement.

Cubbage said there are no signs of foul play and the cause of death will be determined by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Cubbage said Maddula’s family has been notified, and asked the media to respect their privacy at this time. He also said the school’s Counseling and Psychological services are being made available for students who wish to speak with them.

Cubbage said he was not aware of any arrangements yet for Maddula as of Thursday night.

Authorities had been searching the harbor Wednesday but discontinued it that day after not finding anything.

NU police then began re-interviewing students who attended an off-campus party with Maddula in hope of turning up new leads. At a press conference Thursday morning, Cubbage cited Wednesday’s unsuccessful effort and wind conditions as reasons for not continuing the search earlier Thursday.

At that time, he didn’t rule out a future search of the harbor area, located about two miles north of campus and about a mile north of the apartment where the pre-med student was last seen early Saturday morning.

Northwestern police, assisted by personnel from some 20 law enforcement agencies, first searched the harbor area Wednesday based on information that the last signal received from Maddula’s phone came from that area.

Thursday was the first day of classes for returning Northwestern students.

“Obviously it’s a more sober start to the school year,” Cubbage said; responding to a question.

Maddula’s family had offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to his return.

More than 100 Northwestern students had volunteered to help in the search, fanning out around Evanston and putting up fliers.

Anantha Sonti, who described himself as a family friend, said earlier Thursday morning that family members were still hopeful.

Anyone with information on Maddula is asked to contact Northwestern University Police at 847-491-3254.

—Sun-Times Media reporter Mitch Dudek contributed to this report.



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