Justice for Alum Pravin Varughese Postponed


By Lexi Lee, News Editor

On Sept. 17, alum Pravin Varughese‘s alleged murderer Gaege Bethune was ordered to be released from jail until a new trial begins. Judge Mark Clarke presided over the original trial, which resulted in Bethune’s conviction earlier this year, and he made the executive decision to throw out the conviction.

Mark Medland, Pravin’s former counselor, says this news is hard to hear because of the years of effort the family has put into finding answers regarding his death. He doesn’t doubt the fact that the family will continue to fight for answers.

“Knowing the family as I do, I know that they will never give up on this and they will continue to pursue it until they get the answers that they certainly deserve and Pravin certainly deserves,” Medland said.

Former business teacher Eric Lueder was shocked by the news. “I think there’s a lot of questions regarding the justice system [and] what’s going on. There’s a lot of unanswered questions. It was shocking and disappointing,” Lueder said.

Four years ago, Varughese’s body was found in the woods by Southern Illinois University at 9:45 a.m. on Feb. 18, 2014. His body was missing for six days prior to being discovered. Varughese was said to have accepted a ride from an acquaintance after a party on the night of his death, and following a dispute in the car, he was said to have run into the woods. Due to the frigid temperatures around 14 degrees, the cause of his death was deemed to be from hypothermia.

Varughese’s family and mother Lovely Varughese doubted the cause of his death and a private investigator was hired to uncover potential discrepancies. Results from an autopsy revealed that there was trauma done to his head. Varughese proceeded to file a wrongful death lawsuit “looking for answers and for closure” as to how her son died. The family doubted the fact that their son would willingly get into a stranger’s car. “He also wouldn’t just run in the woods and put his life in danger,” said Varughese.

The driver of the vehicle and the last person to see Pravin Varughese alive was Gaege Bethune. He was a self-proclaimed ‘good samaritan’ who offered a ride to Varughese, but was met with hostility, resulting in him pulling over. Bethune told investigators that they got into a ‘little scuffle’ before Varughese ran into the woods. This story raised suspicions when Bethune switched up some details in a second interview admitting that he did end up punching Varughese out of self-defense.

Following an almost two week trial, Bethune was convicted of first-degree murder by a Jackson County jury in June 2014. He was faced with 20 to 60 years in prison. Bethune’s family waited to speak up about the innocence of their son until he was already in prison, “out of respect” for his family.

Special Prosecutor David Robinson plans to appeal Clarke’s ruling to re-prosecute Bethune.