What Really Happened To Pravin Varughese?

On February 12, 2014, a 19-year-old student named Pravin Varughese went out for the night in the small college town of Carbondale, Illinois – and was never seen alive again.

Pravin Varughese [Investigation Discovery]

Pravin Varughese [Investigation Discovery]

By: Catherine Townsend

On February 12, 2014, a 19-year-old student named Pravin Varughese went out for the night in the small college town of Carbondale, Illinois – and was never seen alive again.

Pravin was an outgoing and popular student at Southern Illinois University, who had dreams of becoming a police officer.

According to his friends, on that fateful evening Pravin planned to attend a party off campus, and then meet his roommates at a local bar but he never showed up. At 12:29 a.m. Pravin made a strange phone call to one of his friends. The friend told his family that she heard a strange noise, and something that sounded like a scuffle – but a minute later the call was disconnected.

The next day police called Pravin’s parents and told him that their son had been reported missing. Pravin’s mother, Lovely, said that police told her “Don’t worry, all college kids do this” but she insists that she immediately knew that something was wrong. “If this was a white male there would be helicopters flying twenty four seven until they found him,” she told Investigation Discovery.

On February 18, Pravin’s body was found in a wooded area near a road after a tipster called police. According to the autopsy, there was “evidence of environmental hypothermia”- meaning that Pravin froze to death. Pravin’s mother, who was a nurse, insisted after seeing his body that she saw evidence that her son had suffered injuries that, according to her, were not documented. The family pushed for more answers.

A second autopsy concluded that the cause of Pravin’s death was blunt force trauma to the head, which conflicted with the first autopsy, according to the Chicago Tribune. “ A wounded mom is the best investigator,” Lovely said.

Police got a potential break in the case when the tipster told them that he got his information from a man named Gaege Bethune, who was the same age as Pravin and had attended the same party. When questioned Bethune told police that he gave Pravin a ride from the party because Pravin was very intoxicated, and that they had gotten into an argument over gas money that turned violent. Bethune said that he hit Pravin in the face and that during the fight, they rolled down a hill in the woods. Bethune said that the fight ended when Pravin ran off into the woods.

At a press conference investigators said that there was no indication of foul play but Pravin’s friends and family insist that the scenario proposed by Bethune did not add up. This was bolstered by the results of Pravin’s toxicology report, which came back with zero traces of drugs or alcohol. The family later discovered that on the night of Pravin’s death, an Illinois state trooper had pulled Bethune over and had spoken to him. The state trooper had dashboard camera footage of Bethune coming out of the woods. Gaege Bethune’s attorney, T. Liam Kelly, insists that his client is being “unfairly attacked,” and says that Pravin’s death was a tragic accident, and that things being reported in the media have “zero basis in fact.”

In March 2015 the state’s attorney assigned a special prosecutor to the case. This meant that Pravin’s case files could be opened. Eventually in July 2017 Gaege Bethune was charged with first degree murder in connection with Pravin’s death. Bethune went on trial in June 2018. When he took the stand, and under oath, he admitted that he hit Pravin in both the face and the head. The jury found Bethune guilty of first degree murder, but in a shocking twist, just three months later the judge said that there had been an error in the wording of an indictment – the erroneous placement of one word, “knowingly,” meant that Bethune’s conviction was thrown out of court. Bethune was set free pending a new trial. Prosecutors say that they will push for a new trial – but in the meantime, Pravin’s family and friends wonder if justice will ever be served.

Links: Justice for Pravin website and Facebook Page.

For more on the case of Pravin Varughese watch Investigation Discovery's Still a Mystery on ID GO.

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