Juror's excusal delays trial of man in SIU student's 2014 murder

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (WLS) -- A juror picked to hear the trial of a man accused in the 2014 death of a Southern Illinois University student asked to be excused, delaying the start of testimony.

Gaege Bethune of Eldorado is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Pravin Varughese. A jury was selected late Monday and opening statements in Bethune's trial were scheduled for Tuesday. The juror asked Judge Mark Clarke to excuse him because serving would have an adverse effect on the juror's career.

The selection of a replacement alternate juror will take place Wednesday.

The 22-year-old Bethune was arrested three years after Varughese's body was found in the woods off Illinois 13 on Feb. 18, 2014.

Although authorities concluded at the time there was no evidence of foul play, Lovely Varughese said a private autopsy identified injuries to her son's head and face.

At the family's home in north suburban Morton Grove, there were tears of relief in July. Varughese's family has long waited for this day.

"He's our only son, and it's not easy. And this fight hasn't been easy," said Lovely Varughese.

Gaethe Bethune.

Jackson County Sheriff's Office

Varughese's body was found in a wooded area outside the campus of Southern Illinois University. The SIU sophomore was initially found to have died of hypothermia, but questions lingered about that February night.

Bethune said he offered Varughese a ride home from a party and claimed Varughese started a fight, but said the 19-year-old left the vehicle. No charges were initially filed.
"More than losing our son, our pain was his name was dragged and dragged through the dirt," Lovely Varughese said.

But Pravin Varughese's relatives filed a lawsuit, and commissioned a second autopsy that revealed head injuries and defensive wounds.

A special prosecutor was appointed in 2015.

"Finally, we feel like my son has a voice," Lovely Varughese said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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