The night started out around 10:30 p.m. Friday, September 21 as Harsha and a group of about eight friends partied in a dorm room at Northwestern's Public Affairs Residential College, some reportedly drinking rum and vodka and smoking marijuana.
The group then left and walked to an off-campus party near Garnett Place about 11 p.m., only to leave shortly thereafter.
It is unclear where the group went directly after leaving, but ultimately at least some members of the group met up together at another house party in the 2000 block of Ridge Avenue in Evanston, Ill. According to a sober student tasked with monitoring the door, Harsha entered at about 11 p.m. with three or four friends. He stayed until about 11:30 p.m., then he left again with three or four students on foot.
After arriving at another off-campus party, the group realized they had lost Harsha along the way. The two locations are less than an eight minute walk, so it is unclear how they became separated.
Harsha's friends contacted the University Police around 6:45 p.m. later that day to report him missing.
His body was found in the Wilmette Harbor on Thursday, September 27, 2012.
Search, Investigation, Recovery
According to the Daily Northwester, during the investigation, the university police repeatedly searched Harsha's one-person dormitory room. They found that none of his belongings were missing. They also found nothing in his computer or personal belongings that would indicated a desire to harm himself. Police also reviewed security camera footage from the dorm and checked his electronic key and cell phone [tracking records] and concluded that he had not been in his dorm room since he left Friday night.
The FBI arrived on scene on Tuesday, September 25 as "search parties scoured campus and downtown Evanston." (Daily Northwestern, 09/26/12.)
While some witnesses reported that Harsha had been drinking and smoking marijuana that night, the door monitor who spoke with Harsha as he left the Ridge Avenue party noted that Harsha seemed coherent, wasn't stumbling, and didn't appear to be drunk. Friends also told the media that Harsha is diabetic and not a heavy drinker.
An article by The Daily Northwestern seems to confirm this. The paper reported that Harsha's aunt, Surekha Maddula, said her nephew took daily medication for diabetes, even though he no longer needed to inject insulin.
Harsha's mother, Dhanalakshmi Maddula, also told the paper that her her son is a quiet boy with only a small group of friends. “He likes to study and he worked so hard to come here," she said.
Authorities tried to piece together where Harsha went after becoming separated from his friends sometime after 11:30 p.m.
Cell phone records show that he called a sophomore named John at 12:10 a.m. According to John, Harsha asked where John was, and John replied that he was still at the party on Ridge Avenue. Harsha said he was “going to see if he could make it over there.” (The Daily Northwestern).
At about 12:35 a.m., another friend called Harsha to ask where he was. This call was the last known contact from Harsha. Harsha replied that he was back in his dorm room, which police found to not be true. Cell phone tracking indicates that Harsha was walking from Ridge Avenue to the Wilmette Harbor at the time of the call. He walked in that direction from approximately 12:15 a.m. to 1:07 a.m., then the signal stopped.
Police were in the process of searching the Wilmette Harbor for clues on Thursday, September 27, 2012 when Harsha Maddula's fully clothed body was discovered in the harbor by fisherman. His wallet, containing $130 and a Northwestern ID card, and his iPhone were recovered on his body.
A post mortem examination the following day indicated that Maddula died from drowning. The body had a bruise on the head that was consistent with falling into the harbor and possibly rubbing against a wall, pier support or boat. There was no sign of any blunt force or trauma that would indicate a wrongful death. Toxicology results later indicated that his blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit.
The Cook County medical examiner has classified the manner of death as undetermined. Police believe that the investigation has shown that Maddula's death appears to be accidental with alcohol consumption being a contributing factor. Because Maddula's pants zipper was down when his body was discovered, police theorize that he was attempting to urinate at the water's edge and he fell in.
Evanston police interviewed several witnesses close to Maddula in which a voice stress analyzer was used to detect deception. Police told the media that no deceptive indicators were found.
Police have not been able to recover data from Maddula's water-damaged phone, which was submerged for five days.
Name/age: Harsha Maddula, 18
College: Northwestern University
Hometown: New York
Last Seen: 09/22/12, Evanston, Illinois
Physical Description: 5'4", 135 pounds, black hair, Indian descent
Last seen wearing: gray long-sleeved sweater with black and white stitching, gray pants, brown shoes
Recovered: 09/27/12, Wilmette Harbor
Investigating Agency: Northwestern University Police
Goudie, Chuck. (2013, February 27). Mysterious Drownings: The I-Team exposes deadly pattern. ABC.com. Retrieved March 18, 2013 from
Cohen, Marshall. (2012, September 26). Search for missing Northwestern student Harsha Maddula intensifies as new details emerge. The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved March 19, 2013 from
Goudie, Chuck. (2013, February 27). I-Team: New information in drowning death of Northwestern student Harsha Maddula. ABC.com. Retrieved March 19, 2013 from