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Family finally finds justice 3 years after SIU student found dead

MORTON GROVE, Ill. – Family and friends of a 19-year-old student who was found dead in 2014 gathered Friday to celebrate their long but successful fight for justice.

More than three years after 19-year-old Southern Illinois Student Pravin Varughese was found dead, a suspect is charged in his murder.

22-year-old Gaege Bethune, from Eldorado, Illinois, 50 miles east of the Carbondale-based university, is charged with two counts of murder in the death of Varughese. His body was found in a wooded area off campus about a week after he went missing.

Bethune, who turned himself in Thursday, is being held on $1 million bail. His arraignment is July 18. Court records didn't include the name of a defense attorney.

Bethune was questioned in 2014 after saying he offered the SIU student a lift around the time he disappeared and the two fought, a state's attorney's report released in 2015 said. It said the evidence supported that Varughese had been drinking and died of hypothermia after getting out of Bethune's car and that he may have been intoxicated.

The Varughese family challenged the state's attorney's findings from the start, saying a private autopsy discovered multiple, severe wounds on her son's head and face. There were no traces of significant alcohol in his blood, she said.

The indictment was returned Thursday and remained sealed Friday, but the charges were listed online. A brief statement from a special prosecutor also provided no details, including about any new evidence that might support the contention that Bethune, and not the mid-February cold, had been responsible for Varughese's death.

The Illinois Office of the State's Attorney Appellate Prosecutor's office took over the investigation after State's Attorney Michael Carr recused himself in 2015.

Bethune posted bond Friday. He’s awaiting his initial court appearance next week.