Doctor Defends Independent Autopsy in SIU Student’s Death

Doctor says 19-year-old Pravin Varughese was beaten before his body was found in a wooded area near Carbondale

The doctor who performed an independent autopsy on a college student found dead in a wooded area said he'll cooperate and provide a special prosecutor with anything he needs, but stood firm in his belief the death was no accident.

In an interview with NBC Chicago last week, Dr. Ben Margolis of the Autopsy Center of Chicago stood by his findings that 19-year-old Pravin Varughese was beaten before his body was found in sub-freezing temperatures in a wooded area in Carbondale, Illinois.

"I haven’t questioned my findings. Not at all," said Margolis. "There’s a pattern bruise to the right forehead that could not be from nature. There’s an abrasion to the nose, a bruise to the upper lip."

Dr. Tom Kupferer, the Jackson county coroner on the case, found no significant trauma, citing hypothermia as the cause of death. Two experienced pathologists reviewed his findings and agreed that Southern Illinois University student froze to death and was not the victim of blunt force trauma as determined by the private autopsy Margolis conducted for the family.

"It’s the definition of blunt force trauma," said Margolis of his findings. "We saw it on the right forearm and we saw significant injuries on the head."

Jackson County State’s Attorney Michael Carr, however, told NBC 5 Investigates that his internal death investigation found Varughese was intoxicated, got a ride from a stranger and got into a fight on the side of the road. Varughese then ran into the woods when an Illinois State Police officer arrived.

Carr added that his investigation found the bruises on the body were consistent with injuries received after running through the woods. But Margolis said the Jackson County coroner did not cut into the skin on Varughese’s right arm which he said clearly shows a man-made defensive wound.

"The injury to the arm was deep into the muscle and down to the bone," said Margolis. "That’s a characteristic area for a defensive wound because you hold up your arm to protect yourself from a blow."

The teen's family maintains the injury is clear evidence the death was no accident.

"I’m not really surprised but I feel so sad that this is the way the justice system works,” said Lovely Varughese.

Carr stands by the grand jury decision not to indict the Gaege Bethune, the young man who fought with Varughese, but agreed to have a special prosecutor review the case.

A civil suit filed by the family against Bethune, the Carbondale Police Department, and the City of Carbondale continues.

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