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Police: Alcohol May Have Played Role In L.I. College Student’s Death

Harsha Maddula (credit: Personal photo)

Harsha Maddula (credit: Personal photo)

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EVANSTON, Ill. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Police said Wednesday that alcohol might have played a role in the death of a Long Island teen whose body washed up on Lake Michigan, after he went missing from a party at Northwestern University outside Chicago.

Police in Evanston, Ill., said Harsha Maddula, 18, had a blood alcohol content at 1.5 times the legal limit, according to a Newsday report.

The Cook County, Ill., Medical Examiner’s office had initially ruled Maddula’s death was an undetermined drowning, meaning it is unknown whether it was an accident, suicide or homicide. But his death has since been ruled accidental.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Northwestern Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin said university officials were “saddened” by the fact that alcohol was believed to have played a role in Maddula’s death.

“Northwestern has long had in place policies and programs to address alcohol and substance abuse, including required alcohol education for all new students, intervention training for students, counseling services for alcohol and substance abuse problems, and disciplinary rules that address standards students are expected to meet,” the statement said. “The University continuously assesses how to address this problem, which is not unique to Northwestern, and as part of that effort, funds academic research into substance abuse and related problems on college and university campuses.”

A fisherman found Maddula’s body on the night of Sept. 27, 2012, in Wilmette Harbor, a few miles north of Evanston, six days after he disappeared after leaving an off-campus party. U.S. Coast Guard and Wilmette firefighters recovered the body.

His wallet, student ID card and cell phone were found in his pocket.

Maddula had last seen before that around 12:30 a.m. five days earlier, as he left the off-campus party a short distance west of the Northwestern quads.

Shortly before he disappeared, Maddula sent a text message indicating that he was returning to his room in the Public Affairs Residential College dorm, but Northwestern officials said there was no sign of the student on the dorm’s security cameras or keycard logs, CBS Chicago reported.

Maddula was reportedly on campus a week before the start of school to help new students and freshmen move in to his dorm.

He had recently been diagnosed with diabetes.

Maddula graduated from the top of his class at New Hyde Park Senior High and was determined to become a doctor. He was also a prolific writer.

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(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)