Man accused of murder in 2014 death of SIU student pleads not gu - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Man accused of murder in 2014 death of SIU student pleads not guilty

The body of Pravin Varughese was found in a wooded area on the outskirts of Carbondale in February 2014. (Source: Family of Pravin Varughese) The body of Pravin Varughese was found in a wooded area on the outskirts of Carbondale in February 2014. (Source: Family of Pravin Varughese)
Gaege Bethune (Source: Jackson County Jail) Gaege Bethune (Source: Jackson County Jail)
CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) -

An Eldorado, Illinois man facing a murder charge in the death of SIU student Pravin Varughese has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Gaege Bethune, 22, was arraigned in a Jackson County courtroom on Tuesday, July 18. Bethune was indicted on two counts of felony murder (first degree) on July 13 after a grand jury evaluated potential charges in the case.

The charges come more than three years after the death of Varughese.

According to the Grand Jury Indictment, Bethune punched Varughese multiple times in the head and face. The indictment says that "Varughese's hypothermic death, while not a direct result of the aggravated battery, was a natural and foreseeable consequence of that independent felonious conduct."

Bethune voluntarily turned himself in at the Jackson County Jail on July 13. He was being held in the Jackson County Jail on $1 million bond.

On Friday morning, July 14, he posted bond and walked shoulder-to-shoulder with his dad and lawyer to a car, then went straight to his lawyer's office.

Varughese's body was found after an extensive search in a wooded area outside of Carbondale in February 2014. Police said he jumped from a truck he was riding in and ran into the woods where he was later found dead.

Bethune was believed to be the last person to see Varughese alive. He gave him a ride after a party the night Varughese went missing.

The Jackson County coroner determined from an autopsy that Varughese died from hypothermia. At the time, police said foul play was not suspected in his death.

In 2015, the Jackson County State's Attorney released a full report on Varughese's death investigation. You can click here to read the details.

Lovely Varughese, Pravin's mother, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Illinois State Police and an ISP trooper.

The family also had a second autopsy performed in Chicago.

According to Lovely Varughese, the results showed the cause of death to be blunt force trauma to his head. She said he also had a number of other injuries to his body, including a large injury to his right arm.

The Circuit Court of Jackson County appointed the Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor to review the circumstances surrounding the February 2014 death of Pravin Varughese following a request from Jackson County State's Attorney Michael Carr.

OSAAP was tasked with determining, in accordance with the duties of a public prosecutor, whether sufficient evidence existed to seek an indictment, specifically, "the potential offense of homicide."

Carbondale Police Sergeant Amber Ronketto has been working the case since the beginning. She said this particular case and working with a special prosecutor was a new experience for the Carbondale Police Department.

"We can't really tell any details at this point other than the grand jury came with the indictment yesterday," she said. "Gaege Bethune turned himself in last night to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department and he has since posted bond. Pretty much, it's a waiting game at this point to see when and where the trial date will be set."

Detectives continue to work with the special prosecutor and will testify in court if asked.

Bethune's attorney, Michael Wepsiec, issued a statement regarding the case. He said that numerous posts on social media challenged the conclusion of the grand jury and the performance of the State's Attorney.

Wepsiec said that Bethune intends to fight the charges against him.

"Gaege, with the support of his family and friends, intends to fight these charges to the bitter end in a court of law, not the court of public opinion," he said.

In a release, Wepsiec wrote:

"Much has been posted on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media by persons who think they know what happened. Almost all of these posts have been based upon speculation, rumor, gossip and other insidious innuendo. Many of these posts find their origin in the public pronouncements of a self-styled activist who has befriended the Varughese family. Instead of providing sincere comfort and sympathy, this self-appointed advocate has fanned the embers of the Varughese family's grief with her wild accusations."

You can read the full release from Websiec below.

Court records show Bethune is scheduled to be arraigned in Jackson County Court at 1:30 p.m. on July 18.

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