Charges dropped against Bethune in Varughese death - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Charges dropped against Bethune in Varughese death

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MURPHYSBORO, Ill. -- Charges have been dropped against a man accused of killing a SIU student.

In June, a jury convicted Gaege Bethune of murder in the death of Pravin Varughese, but a judge threw out the verdict months later. Now prosecutors are going back to square one.

"We are glad this part is over with so the prosecutors can start working again," Pravin's mother, Lovely Varughese, said after Wednesday's hearing.

When Judge Mark Clarke tossed out a jury's guilty verdict against Bethune in September, he did so in a way that allows prosecutors to continue seeking charges.

Judge Clarke's issue was with how the indictment was worded, so Wednesday's move by prosecutors ends all matters related to the indictment.

"We don't agree with Judge Clarke's determination about the charging instrument. We accept it. But I can assure you that in this case, as in all cases, we will pursue justice and ensure justice is done," special prosecutor David Robinson said.

A grand jury indicted Bethune in July 2017, more than three years after Varughese died in February 2014.

Bethune went on trial in June 2014 and a jury convicted him on one of the two first-degree murder charges he faced.

In September, Judge Clarke voided the verdict because of a "syntax" issue, meaning the way the indictment was written could've confused the jury.

"Before today, we were ready and willing to proceed to trial on any charges that they might bring, and after today that doesn't change," Bethune's lawyer, Liam Kelly, said after Wednesday's hearing.

"I want to be clear: Today is not a day to celebrate. This is a sad ordeal. It was a tragic accident," Kelly said. "Although we are very relieved, the Bethune family is very relieved, we're very hopeful that this may the end of a sad chapter for everyone involved."

Varughese said it'll be tough to prepare for another trial if prosecutors decide to go that route.

"As far as I'm concerned, people look at us as an example of the fight for justice, so we have to stay with the process until the end," Varughese said. "Whether I like it or not, I'm in this."

Robinson declined to comment on if or when he'll convene another grand jury in Varughese's death investigation.

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