Attorney for murder suspect Gaege Bethune speaks out - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Attorney for murder suspect Gaege Bethune speaks out

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WSIL -- The attorney for the 22-year-old man indicted for the murder of a Southern Illinois University student is speaking out.

Murphysboro attorney Michael Wepsiec says is client, Gaege Bethune, is innocent.

"One cannot judge a case by sympathy or emotions; one has to look at the evidence in this case, and the evidence clearly shows that Gaege did not murder Pravin (Varughese)," said Wepsiec.

Investigators say Bethune was one of the last people to see Pravin Varughese alive, after giving him a ride in February of 2014.

But what happened next remains a mystery.

Varughese's body was found several days later, in a wooded area off Route 13 in eastern Carbondale.

The grand jury indictment returned on Thursday accuses Bethune of two counts of first degree murder.

The indictment said Bethune committed murder in two ways: by committing or attempting to commit aggravated battery, by punching Varughese multiple times in the head and face; and by committing or attempting to rob him.

The grand jury says Varughese's hypothermic death was a "natural and foreseeable consequence" of Bethune's actions.

"First, Gaege did not murder Pravin. He performed no acts causing the death of Pravin," said Wepsiec. "Second, Gaege did not rob or attempt to rob Pravin."

Wepsiec said the first grand jury decision's not to indict in 2015 should have been the end of it.

"I believe that there was some tangible pressure by social media, which forced the appointment of the special prosecutor and the indictment," said Wepsiec. "Much has been posted on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media by persons who think they know what happened. Almost all of these posts have been based upon speculation, rumor, gossip and other insidious innuedo."

He says Bethune's decision to remain in southern Illinois is one measure of his innocence. 

"He cooperated with the investigators from the beginning," said Wepsiec. "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 said he plans to request a change of venue because he doesn't believe Bethune can get a fair trial in Jackson County.

"A change of venue is inevitable," said Wepsiec. 

Bethune turned himself in on Thursday night and bonded out of jail on Friday morning. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Tuesday afternoon.

Wepsiec said he looks forward to proving Bethune's innocence.

"He's  going to show up at his trial and we're going to show that the state's case is weak and does not meet the standard of beyond reasonable doubt," said Wepsiec. 


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