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Parents of Douglasville teen found dead learn where son was discovered, describe his struggles before disappearance

Yaron Kathuri, 17, was found dead on Saturday, more than three weeks after he vanished.

DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. — One day after 17-year-old Yaron Kathuri's body was found in Douglasville near one of the last locations he was known to be alive, his parents spoke with 11Alive on the tragic disappearance and discovery of their son.

Yaron's body was discovered amid the dense woods that surround a Douglas County reservoir that's next to Arbor Place Mall. The mall parking lot was one of Yaron's last-known locations, according to Douglasville Police Department. Officers had found Yaron's car parked at Arbor Place Mall on the morning of Sept. 30, two days after he vanished. The mall is about four miles from the family's home.

Yaron's dad, Andrew Kathuri, said that detectives broke the news to the family Saturday, Oct. 22 at 3 p.m. that they had recovered the body. His father was in disbelief, asking investigators if they were sure it was Yaron. Once police said he was found in the clothes he was last wearing, his dad knew.

Yaron's family, fellow church members and friends had pooled their resources and hired a private investigator to help look for him. 

The investigator, K.C. Rowe of Katella Investigations, searched the last place Yaron's phone was pinged, on a cell tower near the mall parking lot, where Yaron's car had been found parked in the back, next to Dillard's and Macy's. 

Douglasville police had already searched that area and Rowe wanted to take one more look.

RELATED: Missing Douglasville teen's remains found near one of last known locations, family says

Rowe said that on Friday, Oct. 21, he had spoken with one of Yaron's friends and that the friend said he and Yaron had texted and FaceTimed each other the morning of Sept. 28, at around 10:30. Rowe said the friend remembered Yaron pointing his phone's camera around to show his surroundings, and the friend remembered that Yaron was standing next to a concrete wall with square openings.

On Saturday morning, Oct. 22, Rowe walked into the thick woods behind the mall, woods so thick he could barely work his way in, and he had trouble keeping his balance on the steep terrain high above the reservoir, according to the investigator.

Rowe then found the concrete structure along the banks, the reservoir's spillway tower. He estimated the length of the tower from the top to the bottom, which is below the water's surface, to be about 50 feet. Rowe looked inside one of the openings and saw Yaron's body at the bottom.

Credit: K.C. Rowe

"It's where the waters go before they are released into the storm drain," Andrew said. "It's a concrete structure like a well. He was found at the bottom -- he was found at the bottom of that concrete structure."

The cause of death is under investigation.

Andrew and Vera Kathuri, and their younger son, 11-year-old Shalom, sat together in their living room, a box of tissues next to them, the parents speaking about Yaron's triumphs and about his recent troubles.

Surrounding them were dozens of family members and friends, filling the house, praying with them, supporting them, and all grieving as one.

Yaron's parents said that during this past summer, just before the beginning of his senior year in high school, he began experiencing anxiety, and possibly depression. By the time the new school year started, he told them he couldn't think clearly or focus on his studies. He was frustrated. He searched online to learn about his symptoms and possible treatments. He wanted medical help. His parents were trying to find him the help he needed. 

Sept. 27, the night before Yaron disappeared, his mother continued trying to comfort and reassure him, reminding him of how much they loved him, and how much so many people in his life loved him.

"I told him, 'God has a plan for your life and he always has a good plan for you,'" Vera recalled. "I woke him up at seven the next morning and I prayed with him and held his hands, and prayed with him. And then he got ready to go to school."

Yaron never made it to school that morning.

He called his parents after he drove away from the house -- they now know he was calling from the Arbor Place Mall parking lot.

"He said he feels like he's a burden to us," Vera said. "And I told him, 'No, Yaron, you're not a burden. You are a good child and we want to help you.' And he kept saying, 'I'm sorry.' And then he was crying. So we kept trying to get him to just come home, telling him it's okay. And the phone went silent after that. And that was the last conversation."

Family, friends, Douglasville Police and the private investigator conducted intense searches in the area, distributed flyers, went online to post his photos, and tried to identify anyone in his life who might have had information about his disappearance.

"We kept hoping for three weeks that he would come through the door," Vera said, speaking of how they tried to remain hopeful in their faith. "He was our pride and joy, our firstborn, we had so much hope for him and so much hope for his future."

Yaron dreamed of maybe becoming an attorney or maybe running for office, someday; he wanted to study political science. Yaron loved music, playing the trumpet in the school band. And he loved to grill for family and friends, wanting to open his own food truck one day.

"Very kind, generous, very giving," often giving what little money he had to someone in need, Vera said when describing her son.

Andrew said Yaron loved his little brother, Shalom, and enjoyed spending time with him.

"He was his best friend," Andrew said. "He used to sit with him on the couch and they'd watch Netflix together, play video games. So it's that emotional support for his brother, it's going to be hard."

His mother elaborated on the brothers' relationship.

"He loved his brother," Vera said. "[He] always helped him out, sometimes with homework, sometimes going to Dollar Tree to buy candy for him. He was that child that you call and ask him to do anything, he would do it for you."

They said that as they sought medical help for Yaron, they were turned away from one facility because their insurance declined to cover his treatments there, and they were turned away from another because it was at capacity. 

But doctors did say they could prescribe medication for him. That was on Sept. 27, the day before Yaron disappeared.

Vera and Andrew said they now want to help other children and their parents who are going through similar struggles.

"We want to use this pain to help others who may be going through this," Vera said. "We think this pain is not wasted pain. We want all other young people to know that they are loved. We loved him and he knew it. We loved him with everything in us. But we want all children to know that, no matter what they're going through, they are loved by God and they are loved by their parents. So they shouldn't just feel overwhelmed by issues and situations, but they should just reach out to somebody, talk to somebody when they feel sad, when they feel lonely, whatever is going on."

Andrew said Yaron can be a light to help others on their paths.

"The memories we have of him are that he's a fun-loving kid, a peaceful kid. Yaron is the unifying factor, very magnetic, he's able to bring people together," he said. "I want the world to know and see his pure love for people. We are shining that light, we are pointing out issues, we want to bring awareness through that light of Yaron. Teenagers, young adults, are going through anxiety, anxiety disorders, things like that. We are bringing awareness through the light of Yaron."

Yaron was a senior at Chapel Hill High School and would have graduated in May of 2023. 

His family will announce services for him later in the week.

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