Bethune testimony continues in murder trial

MURPHYSBORO, IL — Closing arguments start Thursday for the trial of the Southern Illinois man accused of killing a Southern Illinois University student.

Gaege Bethune is charged with first degree murder in the death of Pravin Varughese. The student’s body was found in the woods in Carbondale near a restaurant in 2014.

Bethune took the stand for the second time Wednesday before the defense rested its case. In cross examination, Special Prosecutor David Robinson continued to question Bethune about conflicting statements he made to detectives.

A courtroom sketch by WPSD photojournalist Justin Jones shows Bethune on the stand. Bethune said on the night of the altercation he had with Varughese — in the overnight hours of Feb. 12-13, 2014 — he never knew Varughese’s name because they barely talked while in Bethune’s car together. Bethune admitted he lied to his cousin, Johnathon Stanley, when he told him he had a fight with Varughese over money. Detectives used information from Bethune and Stanley, to find the student’s body on Feb. 18, 2018.

Bethune said he lied because he wanted to look tough in front of his cousin. He said Varughese never took anything from him. He admitted he has lied to get out of trouble in the past, but he told Robinson he wouldn’t lie on the stand.

There were a lot of questions about what Bethune did after he drove away from the woods that night. In previous statements, Bethune said he went home and never mentioned making any other stops. But, Bethune actually contacted a young woman named Desiree Dunning.

Dunning took the stand Friday, June 8, testifying that Bethune asked her if she wanted to hang out that and use cocaine. Wednesday, Bethune denied offering her cocaine. He said he barely even knew her and had not communicated with her since that night.

In previous statements, Bethune said Varughese was wearing earrings, but none were found on the student’s body when it was discovered in the woods.

Illinois State Trooper Christopher Martin took the stand again Wednesday for defense questions. He previously testified as a prosecution witness June 7.

Martin said he noticed Bethune’s car on Illinois 13 with the hazard lights on the night Bethune and Varughese allegedly fought.  He said Bethune had told him he was attacked by a black hitchhiker he picked up, and that the man had ran into the woods. Martin testified that he did not believe Bethune that night. He said he shined his flashlight in the direction of the woods, didn’t see anything, and left.

Defense attorney Mike Wepsiec asked Martin if he thought Varughese would still be alive if the trooper would have investigated more that night. Martin said he could not answer that question.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 14, in the Jackson County Courthouse.

Related articles:
Bethune takes stand for defense questions in murder trial
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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