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Prosecutors: Antioch man attacked wife with machete, waited 2 days then killed mother

Gruesome details are emerging about last week’s double murder in Antioch.

In a Lake County courtroom Tuesday, prosecutors alleged that Billy Varner, 54, fatally attacked his wife with a machete and knife. And Lake County State’s attorney, Mike Nerheim, says the spark was the moment his wife, Peggy Henderson, started wheezing in her sleep.

“When he heard his wife wheezing, he thought she was suffering so his intent was to put her out of her misery,” said Nerheim, talking to reporters after the bond hearing. “He then proceeded to take a machete to her head and face. Almost decapitating her. She then tried to fight the defendant off of her. He struck her several times, severing fingers, nearly severing her hand.”

Prosecutors say Varner finished Henderson off with a knife, stabbing her multiple times. And it all happened with his mother and brother in the same apartment unit, apparently unaware of the horror in the bedroom. Nerheim says Varner threw a blanket over his wife’s body, leaving her in the bed for two whole days before setting his sights on his elderly mother.

“On Monday, October 28th, the defendant said he saw his mother in the kitchen playing solitaire and he became worried that his mother was getting suspicious, wondering why her daughter in law hadn’t come out of the bedroom.”

Investigators say Varner then suffocated Dorothy Varner with a towel and plastic bag leaving her body on the kitchen floor. Shortly thereafter, police say Varner fled north in his brother’s van. Varner was later captured in North Dakota after allegedly bursting in on a Catholic church service, demanding money. After fleeing the scene, several parishioners gave chase, helping police capture Varner.

He’s being held without bond in Lake County Jail.

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