Man Convicted of Killing Indian American Student in 2014

Pravin Varughese, a student at the Southern Illinois University, was found dead in February 2014.


Four years after the death of Pravin Varughese, a jury convicted a man in the United States of first-degree murder. Gaege Bethune of Eldorado, Illinois, was convicted on June 14, and faces 20 to 60 years in prison when sentenced.

The Indian-origin student, 19, was killed in February 2014, following a fight with Bethune in an inebriated state. Bethune was accused of beating up Varughese, robbing him and driving off, leading to his death from hypothermia in the single-digit temperatures, the Associated Press reported.

The body of Varughese, who was a student at the Southern Illinois University, was found after being missing for five days, PTI reported. Authorities in Carbondale had initially called it a tragic accident, and the cause of death at that time was reported as environmental hypothermia, Chicago Tribune reported.

However, the Varughese family was not convinced with the findings. They raised questions about the last tweet that he posted late that night: “Bloody knuckles … guess I was in a fight #backdown.”

The family got an independent autopsy performed, the results of which differed from the local coroner’s report. The family then filed suit against Carbondale and its police chief, who was fired soon after, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The jury found Bethune, who was also 19 years old at the time of the incident, guilty of one count of murder after the state argued that he battered Varughese and that his death was “a direct and foreseeable consequence,” the Southern Illinosian reported.

Bethune told the police during investigations that he gave Varughese a ride on the night of Feb. 12, 2014 after a party, PTI reported. Both of them drove around to look for cocaine, and got into a fight.

Bethune’s defense attorney, Michael Wepsiec said that he would seek a new trial, since the injuries found on Varughese’s body shouldn’t have led to a murder conviction for his client, according to the Chicago Tribune. He pointed out in his arguments that only superficial bruises were found on Varughese’s body and $24 was in his wallet.

“We’re certainly going to file a motion for a new trial and see what we can do with that,” he was quoted as saying by the publication. “Right now I think we’re all in shock at the verdict of guilty on the felony murder based on the aggravated battery. The evidence does not support that.”

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