The Real Reason Pravin Varughese's Convicted Murderer Was Set Free

Southern Illinois University sophomore Pravin Varughese attended a house party on the evening of February 12th, 2014. It was the last time he was seen alive. A few days later, his body was discovered in a secluded wooded area in Carbondale, Illinois, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Initially, police ruled the 19-year-old's death to be accidental hypothermia, but an independent autopsy ordered by the Varughese family showed that he experienced blunt force trauma to the head. Shortly after, news emerged that a fellow student named Gaege Bethune had had an altercation with Pravin on the night of his death, and eventually, Bethune was arrested and charged with Pravin's murder. After a two-week trial in 2018, the jury convicted Bethune of first-degree murder, according to the Chicago Tribune. First-degree murder typically carries a minimum of 20 years behind bars, but Bethune would never serve even a minute of time in prison for murder. He was never even sentenced.

Instead, Bethune was set free in June of 2018, all because of a simple comma. Rather than issuing a sentence following the jury's conviction, the judge ruled that there was a problem with the wording on the charging document, including an omitted comma, which he felt was enough to confuse the jury and render their decision invalid. Due to the syntax error, the judge dismissed the jury's verdict and threw the case out of court, allowing Bethune to walk out of the courtroom a free man.

Bethune's conviction was thrown out of court due to syntax errors in the charging document

"The day of sentencing three months after ... [Bethune] comes into the court in street clothes with no shackles, nothing. And I had no idea what was happening," Pravin's mother, Lovely Varughese, told Distractify. The judge then "started to say that the prosecution put out a perfect trial, there was no misconduct, no prosecutorial errors, and there was enough evidence for the jury to find Gaege Bethune guilty, from his own admission. But there was a syntax error and [he] wasn't sure if the jury got confused ... So 'I'm vacating the jury verdict and ordering a new trial. I'm letting the defendant go free,'" she recalled.

The Varughese family has continued to fight for justice for Pravin's case, and Lovely remains hopeful that Bethune will once again be brought to trial for her son's murder. "I don't know when it's going to happen, but I'm hoping for the sanity of the justice system it will happen one day. People have to have faith in the system, and they have to have hope," she told the Chicago Tribune.