Morton Grove mayor shows support for Varughese family

By Luke Nozicka

On the eight-month anniversary of the death of SIU student Pravin Varughese, Morton Grove Mayor Dan DiMaria held a news conference to show support for the family.

“We are a close-knit community in Morton Grove. We pride ourself on family,”   said DiMaria, who has been the village’s mayor since May 2013. “When a family in need has gone through tragedy, we’re there to help.”

Varughese was reported missing Feb. 12, and on Feb. 18, then-Carbondale Chief of Police Jody O’Guinn announced his body had been found about 9:45 a.m. in a wooded area east of the 1400 block of East Main Street near Buffalo Wild Wings.

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O’Guinn, who was fired by Carbondale City Manager Kevin Baity on Aug. 18 for a confidential matter, said Varughese left a party on West College Street with a male from Harrisburg he met at the party. O’Guinn said Varughese succumbed to hypothermia overnight as temperatures fell to as low as 6 degrees. He was found in a t-shirt and jeans.

“There were no obvious signs of trauma that would be caused by something other—by any kinds of suspicious means or any kind of altercation,” O’Guinn said at the initial press conference in February.

A toxicology report in April came back negative, showing no signs of drugs or alcohol in Varughese’s body. In the same month, a doctor found Varughese had a “significant number of bruises on the hands, head and torso,” according to an independent autopsy paid for by the family. Results released May 30 from another independent autopsy, performed by Dr. Ben Margolis, a forensic pathologist with the Autopsy Center of Chicago, found Varughese’s cause of death to be blunt-force trauma to the head.

“Our nightmares started then, our dreams shattered and our family is broken, and we still have no answers,” said Varughese’s mother Lovely at the conference Saturday held at the Morton Grove Civic Center. Lovely has filed a lawsuit against the city of Carbondale and O’Guinn.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and the family’s attorney, Charles Stegmeyer, also spoke at the conference.

“I say to the state’s attorney, call a grand jury … if you don’t want to do that, resign,” Stegmeyer said on Saturday .

Luke Nozicka can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @lukenozicka.

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