No Criminal Charges in SIU Student’s Death, Attorney Says

Attorney Charles Stegmeyer, representing family of Pravin Varughese, says state's attorney's decision "reeks of a cover up"

No criminal charges will be filed in the death of Southern Illinois University student Pravin Varughese following a Grand Jury's inquiry, the family's attorney told NBC Chicago.

Varughese's body was found in a Carbondale wooded area five days after he vanished in February 2013. Police initially said the 19-year-old ran off after a night of drinking and died of hypothermia, but a second independent autopsy by Dr. Ben Margolis later showed that Varughese died of blunt force trauma to the head, with no drugs or alcohol in his system. Margolis said the bruises he saw on the body may be evidence the teen was fighting for his life when he died.

Family attorney Charles Stegmeyer said the Grand Jury made their decision without being presented information from the second autopsy.

"I’m stunned. It reeks of a cover up," Stegmeyer told NBC Chicago following a Tuesday evening phone call by Michael Carr, the Jackson County State's Attorney.

"In Ferguson, the state’s attorney put on every witness pro and con and let them speak," Stegmeyer said, recalling the August shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Missouri. "Why didn’t Carr call Dr. Margolis and have him present the second autopsy?"

The college student's family believes Varguhese died in an attack involving 22-year-old Gaege Bethune, who was recorded by an Illinois State Trooper's dashboard camera while parked along the side of Illinois Route 13 in Carbondale. The family last August filed a civil suit against Bethune, the Carbondale Police Department and the City of Carbondale.

That civil suit was ongoing Wednesday, Varughese's mother, Lovely Varughese, said in an email. She said she would also be making an appeal to Gov. Bruce Rauner to investigate Carr. The family has previously traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Mark Kirk’s staffers, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky looking for help.

In an afternoon statement, Carr said the Grand Jury did not find evidence to establish probable cause that Bethune caused Varughese's death or covered it up.

"This was a tragic end to a young man’s life but neither the facts nor circumstances, which have been presented to me, support bringing a criminal prosecution against anyone," he said.

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