MURPHYSBORO, IL — Friday was a long day in the Jackson County courtroom where 10 witnesses testified in the trial of a southern Illinois man accused of the 2014 murder of a college student.
Gaege Bethune is charged with first degree murder in the death of Southern Illinois University student Pravin Varughese. Among those who took the stand were Bethune’s mother and father, as well as friends who drove to Carbondale with him the night Varughese died.
Special Prosecutor David Robinson showed video of an interview of Bethune conducted by Carbondale detective Brooke Lam. Lam was the fifth witness of the day. In the video, Lam said she felt Bethune wasn’t completely honest in his first interview with detectives.
Sarah Wilks was sixth on the stand. Bethune and Varughese’s paths crossed after a birthday party at her house. While on the stand, Wilks said she was surprised to see Bethune at the party. She said she had asked him multiple times to leave. She said she didn’t want him at the party because of previous encounters she had with him.
In the first three days of the trial, cocaine has been brought up a lot. There have been conflicting statements made regarding who was actually looking for cocaine that night —Bethune or Varughese.
Preston Filkins is a friend of Bethune’s. He was one of the friends in the car that night with Bethune when they were heading to Carbondale to the party. He testified that he did not hear Bethune ask for any cocaine that night. Another witness who took the stand, Desiree Dunning, said the opposite. She hung out with Bethune that night.
She was only 16 at the time. Dunning testified that Bethune asked her if she wanted to do some cocaine that night. She said she declined it, and she never saw Bethune with any cocaine in his possession. Dunning said that night she noticed Bethune had injured knuckles. She said Bethune was acting like he was drunk.
Varughese’s cousin and roommate at the time, Ashley Thomas, was fourth on the stand. He said they were close like brothers. He was with Varughese that night before Varughese disappeared. He said he has never known his cousin to use or sell cocaine. He said Varughese was uncertain about going out that night, because he had an exam the next day. Thomas said he knew something was wrong the next day when he found out Varughese never made it to class.
Another of Varughese’s friends, Aneeta Johnson, also took the stand. She was the last person Varughese spoke to on the phone. She said she received a phone call from Varughese around 12:30 a.m. During the phone call, he said: “Aneeta, don’t hang up”.
Then, Johnson testified, she heard what sounded like a door closing, then an argument. She heard Varughese say “I’m trying to help you,” to someone he was arguing with. She later heard what sounded like running, and then she hung up.
The trial will continue Monday, June 11th, 2018 at9 a.m at the Jackson County Courthouse.