State's attorney releases report on SIU student's death investigation

Published: Feb. 25, 2015 at 2:54 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 25, 2015 at 11:38 PM CST
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JACKSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - The Jackson County State's Attorney's Office has released their investigative findings in the death of Pravin Varughese after a grand jury opted not to indict a man Varughese's family believes had something to do with his death in 2014.

The body of Pravin Varughese, 19, was found in some woods on the outskirts of Carbondale in Feb. 2014.

In a report released on Wednesday, Feb. 25, the attorney's office details what the investigation found happened the night Varughese went missing.

Evidence showed Varughese was intoxicated when he went into the woods

Numerous witnesses, including his friends, a relative, complete strangers and his own texts suggest that Varughese was intoxicated when he left a party on W. College sometime before 11:30 p.m. This was an hour before he went into the woods.

According to interviews conducted by police, Varughese consumed at least two Four Lokos, each with an alcohol volume equivalent to four to five beers; two shots of rum; a beer from the refrigerator at the party and a beer used to prop open a window. It is unknown how many beers he may have consumed in addition to these drinks while he played beer pong.

According to one of the residents at W. College, Varughese was playing beer pong in the living room at about 11 p.m. when he noticed Varughese was intoxicated because he was slurring his speech.

Reports indicate that multiple witnesses described Varughese as either intoxicated or highly intoxicated.

Varughese left the party, caught a ride

In the report, a man told detectives that as he was leaving the party on W. College, Varughese walked up to his truck and asked him for a ride. The man said he agreed to give him a ride because Varughese didn't have a coat and he felt sorry for him.

He also said Varughese offered to get him some cocaine in exchange for the ride, but claimed that he declined.

During the ride, Varughese was on his phone. When asked which way to turn, Varughese just pointed or told the man to turn without explaining where they were going.

After several minutes of driving in a town that the driver claimed he was not familiar with, and being almost out of gas, he told Varughese that he was going to let him out. He said Varughese just ignored him.

When the driver turned on to Illinois Route 13, he told Varughese that he could get out at the gas station down the road.

He said Varughese became enraged and swung and hit him.

The two got out of the truck, scuffled and rolled down a hill while continuing to swing and hit at each other.

According to the driver, once at the bottom of the hill, a police car arrived, the driver yelled "cops" and Varughese jumped up and ran into the woods.

The trooper said he did notice a red spot on the driver's right cheek. The driver explained that he pulled over to get Varughese out of his truck, and this explanation was corroborated by the fact that he turned on the blinkers before going to the other side of the vehicle.

The report states that emergency flashers can be seen blinking on Route 13 from the trooper's dash camera as the trooper is approaching the driver's truck at 12:34 a.m.

Also found were bruises on Varughese's face that match the driver's story of where he said he had hit him.

During the 10 minutes that the trooper's car was behind the truck, the trooper did not see or hear anything on the slope of the snow-covered hill adjacent to his squad car, or along the wood line. His dash video shows that the trooper shined his light into the area numerous times.

The trooper's car video also showed the trooper checking the wood line and the area down the hill from the road with his flashlight numerous times.

Varughese called a friend

According to the phone record, Varughese called a friend at 12:29 a.m. on Feb. 13 and the call lasted one minute. The friend explained to officers that she has known Varughese since fifth grade and that he regularly called her late at night when he was drunk, so the call was not unusual.

She told police that she though he was drunk, and she hung up when he did not talk to her.

The investigation found that there would have been no more than three to four minutes from the time that the call ended until the trooper pulled up at 12:34 a.m.

Varughese' body found in the woods on Feb. 18

On the morning on Feb. 18 the body of Pravin Varughese was found by law enforcement in a densely wooded area on the far eastern side of Carbondale.

Varughese was found lying on his back, partially undressed. He had no clothing on his head or upper torso, as his t-shirt had been removed and was found under his right lower leg.

Both shoes had been removed, along with one sock from his right foot, which was found within an inch of his right foot.

His jeans, though not removed, had been pulled down to his mid-thigh area, almost completely exposing his boxer-style shorts.

Photos taken at the time his body was found show numerous scratches and small cuts to his front torso area and arms consistent with being in the woods; a small bruise to the forehead above his right eye; a small cut to his upper lip and a one-half inch cut to the knuckle of his left index finger.

There was no blood on his clothing or on the ground near the body. No major trauma was noted.

Autopsy findings and results

An autopsy was performed originally by Dr. James Michael Jacobi, M.D. on the day after Varughese' body was found.

He determined Varughese died as a result of environmental hypothermia. He included in his findings that given the frigid temperature, approximately 6 degrees at the time that Varughese first went into the woods, and the photos of the body when found, the diagnosis is consistent with paradoxical undressing which is common in accidental hypothermia.

According to Dr. Jacobi, there was an absence of significant trauma. The bruising was to the skin tissue.

Two independent forensic pathologists, not associated with this case, were asked to review the findings and came to the same conclusion.

In conclusion

According to the report, evidence supports that Varughese died of hypothermia and that it was an accident, brought on by a combination of intoxication, rough terrain, frigid weather, little or no clothing and confused and poor judgement.

The circumstances suggest that Varughese, while intoxicated, bolted into the dark and frigid woods when the police arrived.

Michael C. Carr, the Jackson County state's attorney said, "this is a tragic end to a young man's life but neither the facts nor circumstances, which have been presented to me, support bringing a criminal prosecution against anyone."

Varughese' family informed of no indictment

On Tuesday, Feb. 24, Varughese said the State's Attorney Mike Carr contacted family attorney Charles Stegmeyer to inform him that he will not be filing any charges against the 22-year-old man who was last seen with Pravin moments before he ran into the woods.

The grand jury of 23 people was presented with the evidence, and Stegmeyer said that there wasn't enough to charge the 22-year-old driver last seen with Pravin.

Stegmeyer said Carr informed him late on Tuesday night about the decision.

At that time, he said it still left a lot of questions unanswered including what witnesses testified and what evidence was presented from the Carbondale Police Department and the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

Police initially said Pravin got lost after a party and froze to death in the woods near Carbondale, but his family said they have proof the teen was attacked.

Pravin's mother, Lovely, said the frustration only adds to the family's grief.

In August, his family filed suit against the driver of the car, Carbondale police and the City of Carbondale. The lawsuit accuses the driver of causing the teen's death.

Varughese's Family and their attorney have requested the first autopsy report and the clothes Varughese was wearing the night he disappeared.

They plan to hand that evidence over to their private investigator.

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