Murder trial set to begin in Jackson County - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Murder trial set to begin in Jackson County

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JACKSON CO. -- A murder trial is set to begin in the death of a SIU student more than four years ago.

Prosecutors believe Gaege Bethune caused injuries that eventually killed Pravin Varughese.

Police found Varughese's body Feb. 18, 2014, after six days of searching. That's when a family's quest to find answers began.  

"We were not looking for any kind of revenge," Lovely Varughese, Pravin's mother, said on Aug. 7, 2014. "We were looking for answers."

The family thought from the beginning that Gaege Bethune was behind their son's death.

He's the last person to see Varughese alive after a fight the two had on Route 13 a week before officials found him dead in the woods nearby.

The coroner ruled Varughese died from hypothermia, but Pravin's family sought a second opinion, and an independent pathologist found Varughese died from blunt force trauma.

"We all saw the bruise on his forehead, even before the pathologist saw him. I knew right then that my son was injured. And I remember saying out loud that someone beat him," Lovely Varughese said on April 19, 2016.
So Pravin's mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Carbondale, the police department and Bethune. A judge eventually threw it out, but not before Jackson County State's Attorney Mike Carr asked a special prosecutor to handle the case.

That happened in March 2015, more than a year after Pravin's death. It would be another two years before the special prosecutor got a grand jury to indict Bethune on first-degree murder.

Several court hearings later and his trial is set to begin Monday with jury selection.

His lawyer, Mike Wepsiec, has a pending motion to change venues. He doesn't feel like they'll find a unbiased jury in Jackson County because of the media attention.

"I will say there's been a tremendous amount of publicity around this case thanks to you and your predecessors," Wepsiec said to reporters after a hearing Feb. 16, 2018.
But a judge has decided to let the jury selection process play out in the days ahead before making a decision on that motion.

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