Investigators of Varughese case argue about grand jury trial

Published: Mar. 19, 2015 at 11:16 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 20, 2015 at 3:51 AM CDT
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Statement released by Chicago Pathologist
Statement released by Chicago Pathologist
Diagram notes from original autopsy
Diagram notes from original autopsy
2nd Autopsy injury observations
2nd Autopsy injury observations
letter from Jackson County States' Attorney to Chicago Pathologist
letter from Jackson County States' Attorney to Chicago Pathologist

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - A point of serious controversy is rekindled in southern Illinois concerning the death of Pravin Varughese; the Southern Illinois University student whose body was found in a patch of woods in Carbondale in Feb. 2014.

The question posed now is: Should the Chicago-based pathologist who did a private autopsy on the SIU student have testified during February's grand jury trial?

To which the family of the deceased said, "yes." That's after the results of February's grand jury decision, which cited the findings of three pathologists who call the death an accident caused by hypothermia, extreme temperatures and increased susceptibility due to alcohol, along with the resulting "confusion and poor judgement."

After that original autopsy performed by an Indiana-based coroner surfaced, the family hired private Chicago-based pathologist, and founder of the Autopsy Center of Chicago, Ben Margolis, for a second look.

Margolis' findings claim the cause of death was "blunt-force trauma" citing 22 points of injury on Varughese's body, most of which were either not mentioned by the previous autopsy, or were referred to as "postmortem discoloration," or in other cases abrasions and minor injuries consistent with any subject stumbling through the woods at night.

In February, the Varughese family publicly criticized the Jackson County States' Attorney for not including the findings of that private autopsy in the grand jury decision.

Heartland News obtained a letter from the states' attorney, Michael Carr, to Margolis which asked Margolis to testify, but on the condition that Margolis provide his findings while not having access to the findings of the first autopsy.

The letter said:

"Re: Pravin Varughese death

Dear Dr. Margolis,

It has come to my attention that you have recently spoken publicly about your opinion as to the cause of Pravin Varughese's Death. This Letter is an invitation to you to appear before the Jackson County Grand Jury to explain your findings. If you are willing to do so, please forward to me, in the envelope included, your vita and a written copy of your autopsy report along with a copy of your notes, any photos, test results, or written findings, and I will make arrangements for your appearance.

Please respond to this correspondence by not later than November 6, 2014


The Varughese family said on the phone that Margolis confronted the family after receiving the letter, and told them he'd "never been in a situation like this before," and "didn't feel comfortable attending unless he had access to previous findings."

A statement Margolis released on Wednesday (viewable to the right of this story,) also further explained his lack of presence at the grand jury trial.

Carr told Heartland News on the phone that at the time he wrote the letter to the Margolis, the States' Attorney's Office already had the testimony of three "experienced pathologists" and didn't require a fourth to move forward in the case, which is why he saw no need to issue a subpoena for Margolis' presence.

Issuing a subpoena would have been the only way to effectively force the Chicago pathologist to attend the grand jury trial and testify.

"If he wanted to show up and testify, we wouldn't have stopped him," Carr said over the phone on Thursday.

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