CARBONDALE — The state trooper who arrived just moments after an SIU student reportedly fled into a wooded area, only to be found dead five days later, didn’t see the student run from a nearby car and only interacted with the car’s driver, a State Police spokesperson says.
Monique Bond, chief of communications for the Illinois State Police, said Tuesday that the ISP District 13 trooper’s in-car camera proves that there was no interaction made with 19-year-old Pravin Varughese just after midnight Feb. 13, when the trooper encountered a stopped car on Route 13 eastbound near Giant City Road.
“The trooper had no contact with anyone other than the driver,” Bond said Tuesday. “He did not see anyone run. There were no other passengers.”
The driver of the car reportedly told the trooper only that his passenger, now known to be Varughese, had assaulted him and possibly tried to rob him before running from the car toward the wooded area just moments earlier, Bond said. Bond confirmed to the Times last week that the trooper then “conducted an extensive search of the area and no suspect was located. The driver declined to file a report and the trooper cleared the scene.”
Later that morning, Carbondale Police began investigating Varughese’s disappearance following receipt of a missing person report. Police finally recovered his body Feb. 18, five days later, within the same wooded area near Kohl’s and Buffalo Wild Wings into which he reportedly had fled. The recovery followed a tip the evening before from the same driver the state trooper had encountered the previous week. The driver has not been publicly identified, and Bond said the State Police would not identify the trooper, citing protocol.
Police say they suspect no foul play in Varughese’s death, and a preliminary autopsy indicates he died from hypothermia. Carbondale Police are awaiting a forthcoming toxicology report for their death investigation, which remains ongoing.
Varughese was reported as having last been seen around 11 p.m. Feb. 12 at a house party on West College Street. Carbondale Police Chief Jody O’Guinn said last week that Varughese apparently made a new acquaintance at the party and accepted a ride from the person. However, a fight ensued between the two, and Varughese abruptly exited the vehicle. O’Guinn said the student, who wasn’t wearing a coat on an extremely cold night, went into the woods and was unable to find his way out.
Bond said the trooper followed all protocol and procedures during the initial encounter with the driver and that she didn’t believe the trooper even understood the connection between what he witnessed and the missing SIU student until the driver came forward to Carbondale Police several days later.
Bond said the situation is a tragedy, but the trooper did his job.
“We have to let this investigation take its course,” Bond said.