CARBONDALE -- The body of missing SIU student Pravin Varughese was found Tuesday morning.
The body was was found about 9:45 a.m. in a wooded area in the 1400 block of East Main Street, near Buffalo Wild Wings and Kohl's.
City police said they learned Varughese accepted a ride from a recent acquaintance on Feb. 12 just before midnight.
After a dispute in the vehicle, Varughese exited in the 1400 block of East Main Street and ran in to the woods.
Carbondale Police Chief Jody O’Guinn said at a news conference Tuesday that the difficult terrain and low temperatures are believed to have contributed to Varughese’s difficulty finding his way out of the woods.
The exact cause of death is still being investigated, but foul play was not suspected Tuesday. Deputy Chief Stan Reno said there were no obvious signs of trauma indicating suspicious death or any kind of altercation.
O’Guinn said police are working under the assumption Varughese ran into the woods, lost his way and eventually froze to death.
“We do not have any other information with credibility that it was anything else,” O’Guinn said. “We have to wait and see what information we get from the autopsy to see if there is anything else."
Police have requested an autopsy, including toxicology tests, which will be arranged by the Jackson County Coroner's Office.
The identity of the acquaintance was not released. He came to police on Monday night, almost a week after the incident occurred.
O’Guinn said the case is considered a death investigation, not a homicide investigation, as of Tuesday.
Two of Varughese’s friends, Nathan Haas and Dakota Reynolds, embraced in the parking lot of Buffalo Wild Wings as they watched authorities scour the area for evidence.
Haas, who was one of Varughese’s roommates, said he was one of the people who reported him missing. He said it wasn’t out of the ordinary for Varughese to go out for the night and not return home until the next day.
After going to a party at 606 College St. on Wednesday night, Haas said he went to work, leaving Varughese at the party with friends. He and his roommates became worried the next day when they discovered Varughese hadn’t returned to their University Village apartment.
“I’m going to miss all the stories and good times,” he said.
Reynolds said Varughese was a fun-loving, well-liked person.
“He was a great guy,” she said. “He was very caring.”
Rae Goldsmith, chief communications officer for SIU, said there would be a moment of silence at Tuesday night’s basketball game.
Goldsmith, speaking on behalf of SIU Chancellor Rita Cheng, said the campus will work with the family on an appropriate way to honor Varughese.
“Our immediate purpose is to do whatever we can for the Varughese family and to respect their wishes,” Goldsmith said. “We encourage students who grieve for Pravin’s loss to reach out to the counseling center on campus.”
“This is not something we can understand as a community. It is certainly something that we can hope doesn't happen again.”