A man was indicted by a grand jury Thursday in the 2014 death of a 19-year-old Southern Illinois University Student from Chicago's north suburbs.
Gaege Bethune, 22, was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bond.
For over three years, the Varughese family, of Morton Grove, fought for answers in the sudden disappearance of their son, Pravin, whose body was later discovered in the Carbondale woods. Much of the criminal investigation centered around Bethune who was the last person to see Varughese alive.
“This is not a victory,” Lovely Varughese, Pravin’s mother said from the family’s home Thursday night. But the grieving mother said she did feel like some justice has been found. “I’m so glad we cleared our son’s name.”
In police interrogation videos, obtained by NBC 5 Investigates, Bethune told police that he was a good Samaritan who simply offered Varughese a ride on a frigid February night
“I’m a nice guy. If I see someone standing on the side of the road. I’ll help her out,” he said.
Bethune admitted to police officials that he had been drinking but said that it was Varughese who became combative and refused to get out of this truck.
The two fought by the side of the road.
“The fight maybe lasted 30 seconds,” he said. “Myself, I wouldn’t call it a fight. A little scuffle.”
Bethune told police that when an Illinois state trooper approached, Varughese took off into the woods. The Southern Illinois University sophomore was found dead a few days later.
A Jackson county coroner report found no found no sign of foul play at the time and said hypothermia appeared to be the cause of death. In August 2014, the Varughese family hired Dr. Ben Margolis of the Autopsy Center of Chicago and got a second autopsy completed. Margolis’ report concluded that Varughese died of “blunt force trauma to the head.” Autopsy photos showed defensive bruises and scratches on the body.
But in February 2015, a Jackson County grand jury returned no criminal charges against Bethune. At the time, Jackson County State’s Attorney Michael Carr released the findings of his investigation indicating that the criminal investigation was over. Carr’s report said an intoxicated Varughese died of hypothermia—a tragic accident when he wandered off into the woods and got lost.
In March 2015, Carr stepped down from the case and turned it over Patrick Delfino, a special prosecutor in the Illinois State Appellate Court. Two years later, NBC 5 Investigates learned that a the lead prosecutor in the case David Robinson, Deputy Director of the State’s Attorney Appellate Prosecutor’s office convened a grand jury.