Investigation Discovery examines death of SIUC student Pravin Varughese


A mourner holds a photograph of Pravin Varughese on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, during a memorial ceremony in the woods bordering Illinois Route 13, where police say the SIU student died of hypothermia about three years ago. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

By Cory Ray

The television network Investigation Discovery, which examines real-world crimes in a documentary-style format, probed into the 2014 death of SIUC student Pravin Varughese after a video the network posted on Facebook.

ID Now: Pravin Varughese


Two autopsies. Two different stories. What happened to Pravin? #JusticeForPravin

Posted by Investigation Discovery on Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The video begins with a montage of television reporters addressing the mysterious circumstances surrounding Pravin’s death.

Varughese’s body was found on Feb. 18, 2014 in woods bordering Illinois Route 13 five days after he was reported missing.

Over the course of three years, Varughese’s mother, Lovely Varughese, has been vocal about her belief that officers did not handle the investigation correctly.

“If this was a white male,” Lovely Varughese said in the video, “there would be helicopters flying 24/7 until they found him.”

During the investigation, two autopsies were performed on Varughese’s body.


The second autopsy was performed independently by Dr. Ben Margolis at the request of the family, who was not pleased with the initial autopsy that listed the death as a result of hypothermia.

The autopsy by Margolis reported two bruises on Varughese’s head as well as a cut along the nose. Margolis concluded blunt force trauma may have been either an indirect or direct cause of death.

The criminal investigation into his death ended over a year later on Feb. 25, 2015, when suspect Gaege Bethune — who is believed to be the last person Pravin saw before he died — was not indicted.

The video also shows an interrogation of Bethune, who said he and Varughese fought moments before Varughese ran into the woods where his body would later be found.

“I hit him dead square in the face,” Bethune said in the video.

Other video footage from that night shows dash cam from a police vehicle of Bethune walking out of the woods.

According to the video, Bethune told the officer “a black man had tried to rob him,” but in the interrogation video, Bethune said he lied about being victim to any attempted robbery.

The Investigation Discovery video claims Bethune may have had connections with the police that led to a cover up.

“Nobody wants to send their kid to a college town where there’s college kids getting murdered,” said Monica Zukas, a victim’s advocate working on the case with the Varughese family.

Other surveillance footage from the night of Varughese’s disappearance shows a man carrying what appears to be a person.

Lovely Varughese told the Daily Egyptian in 2015 she was not content with the results of the trial.

Then she said she believed Jackson County State’s Attorney Michael Carr did not pursue the investigation honestly.

“In September, I came back to Carbondale and met with him face to face,” Lovely said. “He told me, ‘I am not going to charge that boy, I will not ruin another life.’ He had already made up his mind.”

In the Investigation Discovery video, Lovely Varughese further said Carr was dismissive.

“The 80 to 85 minutes that he talked to me,” she said, “he basically attacked Pravin.”

She said Carr insisted Varughese was extremely intoxicated, but a toxicology report referenced in the video “showed negligible alcohol in his system.”

The family continues to fight for what they believe to be the truth.

“[Pravin] wants justice, ” Lovely Varughese said. “He’s not going to rest until this is all done.”

Editor-in-Chief Cory Ray can be reached at or on Twitter @coryray_de.

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