Bethune takes stand for defense questions in murder trial

MURPHYSBORO, IL – The man accused of murdering an Southern Illinois University student in 2014 took the stand on Tuesday.

Gaege Bethune is charged with first degree murder in the death of Pravin Varughese. Varughese body was found in the woods in Carbondale near a restaurant. The prosecution rested Tuesday, and defense testimony began.

Bethune was the 11th witness of the day. Artist sketches of the courtroom drawn by WPSD photojournalist Justin Jones show Bethune on the stand. Bethune testified that he lied to detectives during his original police interviews.

He said he lied to Illinois State Trooper Christopher Martin. In the small hours of Feb. 13, 2018, — the night Bethune had an altercation with Varughese — Martin noticed Bethune’s car on Illinois 13 with the hazard lights on.  The trooper pulled up behind him.

Bethune testified he was afraid, because he was 19 years old at the time, had been drinking and driving that night, and didn’t want to get in trouble. He told Martin he had picked up a black hitchhiker who had attacked him and ran into the woods. Martin only shined his flashlight in the general direction of the woods. Martin said he didn’t see anything and told Bethune to go home.

Bethune told the court he thought Martin would do more with the information he gave him. Bethune denied there was any money on the floorboard of his car (during prosecution questioning June 7, Martin testified he saw money on the floor of the car that night), and he never took any money from Varughese. Bethune said he did hit Varughese during the altercation that night.

When Varughese’s body was found Feb. 18, there were two abrasions above one of his eyebrows. During cross-examination, special prosecutor David Robinson started going through every statement Bethune made to detectives. Robinson asked him if those statements were lies or true. Bethune said some of the questions were confusing and hard to answer.

A few of Varughese’s friends who saw him that night of the party also took the stand. They said he was moderately drunk, but displayed no concerning behavior.

Another courtroom drawing from Tuesday shows SIU Police Officer Adam Cunico on the stand. He said he was one of the first people who found Varughese’s body in the woods.

Investigator Brandon Weisenberger took the stand again after first taking the stand on June 7.

Tuesday, Weisenberger showed a video he and another investigator made where they recreated the path Varughese could have taken overnight Feb.12-13. In the video, Weisenberger had to jump over a barbed wire fence and fallen trees.

He walked through trees with barbs on them and jumped across a creek. It took 10-and-a-half minutes to walk to the place where Varughese’s body was found. He said that was not Varughese’s direct path, because no one really knows his direct path he took that night.

Crime Scene Investigator Daniel Glover also took the stand. He collected evidence from the truck Bethune and Varughese road in that night. He said he found no visible blood in the truck, or any DNA from Varughese. But, Glover said he did not know where the truck was between the time of the altercation and when he examined it.

Bethune will be back on the stand when the trail resumes at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, June 12, at the Jackson County Courthouse.

Related stories:
Autopsies performed on Pravin Varughese focus of testimony in Gaege Bethune trial
10 witnesses testify about last night of Pravin Varughese’s life in day 3 of Gaege Bethune trial
Judge dismisses mistrial motion in Gaege Bethune murder trial
Emotional day in court as Gaege Bethune murder trial begins

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