Sunday 23 September, 2018
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Man found guilty of first degree murder in 2014 death of Pravin Varughese

Happier times. Pravin Varughese (right) with his family. Photo courtesy: Facebook page of Priya Varughese.

NRI Pulse Staff Report

Atlanta, GA, June 15, 2018: A jury has convicted 23-year-old Gaege Bethune of first-degree murder with aggravated battery in the February 2014 death of Pravin Varughese, a Southern Illinois University student.

The 12-person jury returned the verdict Thursday night against Bethune of Eldorado, Illinois. He faces 20 to 60 years in prison when sentenced, reports ABC Chicago.

Bethune had been charged with two counts of felony murder. In one charge, the state alleged Bethune punched Varughese in the head, causing great bodily harm. The prosecution argued Varughese’s death was a direct and foreseeable consequence of that punch. The jury found Bethune guilty on that count, according to media reports.

The second charge had similar language, but alleged a robbery took place. The state argued that Varughese’s death was a direct and foreseeable consequence of the robbery. The jury found Bethune not guilty on that charge.

The defense argued that only superficial bruises were found on Varughese’s body and $24 was in his wallet.

For four years, Lovely Varughese, Pravin Varughese’s mother, fought for answers in her son’s death.

Prosecutors said that after Varughese asked Bethune for a ride outside of 405 W. College St. in Carbondale on the night of Feb. 12, 2014, the two men rode around for about 30 minutes looking to purchase cocaine.

At some point during the ride, Varughese placed $25 in Bethune’s cupholder in order to make the cocaine purchase.

After being unsuccessful in the search for cocaine, Bethune turned onto Illinois 13, heading east out of Carbondale, Robinson said. At that point, Varughese became upset and asked Bethune to pull over. As the car stopped on the side of the road, Varughese grabbed the money and got out of the vehicle.

Bethune then got out of his vehicle and the two got into a fight over the money. By Bethune’s own admission, he punched Varughese above the right eyebrow. After the punch, the state alleged, the two rolled down a hill, where Bethune hit Varughese again and stole the money.

Evidence was presented that shortly after the altercation on the side of Illinois 13, an Illinois State Police trooper pulled up behind Bethune’s stopped vehicle. The prosecutor said the two men scattered. Bethune walked back toward his car; Varughese ran into the woods.

The prosecution alleged the punch caused Varughese to lose control of his faculties and become disoriented, which caused him to die of hypothermia.

Varughese’s body was found several days later in a wooded area south of Illinois Route 13, five days after he encountered Bethune at a party in February of 2014.

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