Family Files Lawsuit in Death of SIU Student

Despite initial police reports, Pravin Varughese's family says they have proof the teen was attacked

After an independent autopsy determined a Southern Illinois University student did not die as originally thought, the teen's Morton Grove family is suing a man they say was responsible for his death, as well as Carbondale Police and the city of Carbondale.

Police initially said Pravin Varughese, 19, got lost after a party and froze to death. Varughese's family now says they have proof the teen was attacked, and the lawsuit, filed on Thursday, will accuse another young man of causing his death.

"Every day is a hard day," Varughese's mother, Lovely, said. "I wake up in the morning, and I think it's all a dream."

Varughese's body was found in February in the woods five days after he left a party near SIU's Carbondale campus. About an hour after he left, dash cam video obtained by NBC 5 shows a state trooper spotting an empty pickup parked on the side of the road nearby.

The Varughese family is accusing the driver, shown in the video walking from the roadside, of attacking their son and causing his death.

"He has to tell us the truth," Lovely Varughese said. "We waited six months for him to come out and tell us what really happened."

The family filed a lawsuit Thursday against the driver, a young man who we are not naming because he has not been charged. In the lawsuit they accuse the man of giving their son a ride, then hitting him "in the head with a blunt-force instrument."

According to police reports the trooper who spoke to the driver on the road that night says the driver told him he offered a man a ride and asked for gas money but the man punched him and ran into the woods.

The trooper saw a mark on the driver's face and conducted a brief search with a flashlight, finding no sign of the man. Jimmy Vachachira, an attorney for the Varughese family, says the family's private autopsy shows Varughese was badly beaten and was probably still alive that night.

Vachachira describes Varughese's injuries as "blunt force trauma to the head."

"He also has a defensive wound in his right arm," the attorney said.

Still the family said authorities told them the official coroner's autopsy found no sign of foul play and that hypothermia appeared to be the cause of death. There was no mention of blunt force trauma.

The initial police theory before the family knew about the state trooper video was their son had been drinking, got lost in the woods and succumbed to sub-zero temperatures.

The family said their lawsuit also accuses the city of Carbondale and the chief of police of negligence.

Carbondale Police say they do not comment on pending litigation but also say the case is still under review by the state's attorney's office.

NBC 5 reached out to the driver of the truck but did not hear back.

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