Who Killed My Son?: The Tragic Death Of Pravin Varughese

A 19-year-old Southern Illinois University student, Pravin Varughese, went missing on a frigid night in 2014 after not returning home from a party. His body was found in a wooded area near a strip mall in Carbondale, Illinois on February 18, five days after he was reported missing. Police said they didn't suspect foul play and saw no signs of trauma, according to the Associated Press, and believed that he somehow couldn't find his way out of the woods due to rough trerrain and temperatures near freezing. An autopsy did not find drugs or alcohol in his system. 

Varughese's family always suspected foul play, even though the initial autopsy report listed his cause of death as hypothermia. His family insisted it didn't add up. According to the Arlington Cardinal, the student was found wearing only jeans and a shirt, and the last time anyone saw him he was leaving the party by getting a ride with an acquaintance named Gaege Bethune.

After years of persistence on the part of Lovely Varughese, Pravin's mother, including hiring a second private autopsy that found evidence of blunt force trauma to Pravin's head, per the Southern Illinoisan, Bethune was finally charged with two counts of murder in July 2017.

Prosecutors claimed Bethune tried to rob Varughese, and in the process, punched him in the head and face a couple of times before Varughese ran out of the car and into the woods, where he ultimately froze to death. 

Pravin Varughese's family is still fighting for justice

While Lovely Varughese finally felt like her family may finally get justice for Pravin, the roller coaster of solving her son's death would continue. In June 2018, a jury convicted Bethune of first-degree murder, per the Associate Press, but in September 2018 a judge threw out that verdict.

According to NBC Chicago, the judge said a new trial was needed based on a "language error in the indictment," which may have confused the jury. On January 23, 2019, the murder charges against Bethune were officially dismissed, and he walked free, KFVS reported. 

When the judge overturned the verdict, Lovely told NBC Chicago, "I was in complete shock. I thought that after all these years of fight, finally we had justice. A jury found Gaege guilty of murdering my son, and he walked without any problem in front of our eyes." 

Bethune's attorney, Steve Greenberg, says it's time to leave his client alone. "It's enough already. These people claiming it was racist. It was because their son was afraid he was going to get kicked out of school, and it's time they stopped dragging poor (Gaege) through the mud when he didn't do anything wrong," Greenberg told the Chicago Tribune in reference to a Discovery Channel documentary called "Who Killed My Son?" set to stream in March. "Take some personal responsibility. I feel sorry for them because their son died, that's an awful thing, but the remedy isn't to ruin someone else's life just so you can make yourself feel good."