NEW YORK – Lovely Varughese, mother of Pravin Varughese, who was beaten and robbed to death on the night of February 14, 2014, has finally seen a ray of hope as her son’s alleged murderer, Gaege Bethune, 22, pleaded not guilty after an indictment last week stated that he was charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
“It was a day we had waited for so long, we feel like his voice is heard and he’s happy today,” she told The Chicago Tribune as her only mission was to get justice for her son saying that her part of the fight was over and the rest was up to the courts.
On February 14, 2014, 19-year-old Varughese was attending a party near the Southern Illinois University campus where he was not only a student but a track and cross-country runner as well, when he was offered a ride back by Bethune, who according to university officials was not an SIU student, and was instead attacked for gas money.
In a face time interview with News 3, Varughese’s mother said “this is the answer. I wish it came earlier but, you know, I can’t control it. This is probably how this was all planned out by the Lord. I’m happy we are here today and from here on whatever the Lord permits, let it happen. My job is done.”
However Mike Wepsiec, Bethune’s attorney disagreed and told News 3, “one cannot judge a case by sympathy or emotions; one has to look at the evidence in this case. And, the evidence clearly shoes that Gaege did not murder Pravin.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, authorities concluded that there was no evidence of foul play in Varughese’s death after which his family demanded further investigation claiming that ‘he simply wandered off into the woods and died’ was not a legit and reasonable explanation.
The Varughese family was then assigned special lawyer after which a private autopsy which found signs of blunt force trauma but the indictment stated that Varughese died of “forehead contusions/impressions and injuries to the nose consistent with blunt force trauma” even though a grand jury said that his hypothermic death was a “natural and foreseeable consequence” of Bethune’s actions.
“The best thing we had was getting a person, a special prosecutor who was willing to look into every sing detail and investigate this case thoroughly. Pravin had injuries and that [were] caused by someone, and that person is responsible for Pravin’s injuries and to make him responsible and that happened, and I am done,” she added in her News 3 interview.
Social media posts and phone calls he made that night also indicated that he might have been attacked or in a fight.
The Chicago Tribune also reported that the same night, a state trooper reported seeing a man with a red mark on his cheek stopped by the side of the road where Varughese’s body was found five days later, in a wooded area more than 400 yards south of Illinois Route 13 on the east side of Carbondale, about 50 miles from where Bethune lives.
The trooper said that they did scan the area at the time but left the scene after nothing was found.
Wepsiec says his client is innocent although investigators believe Bethune was the last person to have seen Varughese alive after giving him a ride.
“He’s very confident in his innocence, and we’re resolute to see this thing to the end where a jury acquits him,” said Wepsiec.
Bethune was unreachable for a comment. However, his father Don Bethune, told the Chicago Tribune that his son is willing to fight the charges as he described him as a hardworking father.
“He’s just trying to take care of his life. He’s got a young child, and he’s trying to be a good father, a good son,” Wepsiec added.
According to News 3, Bethune did voluntarily turn himself into the Jackson County Jail the day of the indictment, where he was held on $1 million bond but was able to pay 10 percent of it releasing himself from jail on the morning of July 14.
If convicted he would face a potential sentence of 20-60 years in prison.