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Hometown Mysteries: Pravin Varughese, The case that stumped a country

February 6, 2015 , Maddi Petersen

cooltext1908611330pravin title2Imagine this, you’re at home; your baby boy is 325 miles away at college. You get a phone call or doorbell ring that no mother ever wants to get. “Hello. My name is Officer So-and-so; do you have a minute to talk? Are you sitting/please sit down, this may come as a shock to you. I regret to inform you that your son has gone missing without a trace.” Well, this happened to Lovely Varughese in February of 2014. Her son was attending Southern Illinois University in Carbondale Illinois and she lived in Morton Grove, Illinois, 325 miles away. Pravin didn’t deserve the fate that he received…

“Pravin Varughese, age 19, was born to Lovely Varughese and Matthew Varughese in Evanston, Illinois on July 29th, 1994. He was not an only child; he had an older sister, Pryia and a younger sister, Preethi” (Pravin Action Committee). “Pravin was huge into church; he took part in a very large youth group. They are all VERY family oriented, he called his parents every day. When he was still at home or when he visited, he would fall asleep with his head on his dad’s lap. Pravin and his family traveled everywhere together. He loved all of his family. He had a unique personality that began to show when he was very young. Everyone that met Pravin has some kind of memory of him being obnoxious just to make them laugh, that was his gift. He was capable of lighting up any conversation by his charismatic and easy going personality” (Zukas).

53e2648f9d48c.image“Pravin attended Niles West High School, from which he graduated in 2012. He was a member of several clubs, including but not limited to, Track and Cross Country and DECA (a business club)” (Pravin Action Committee). He worked for the local Carbondale Jimmy Johns when he was not at school. He decided to study at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, where, at the time of disappearance, he was a sophomore. “He was studying Criminal Justice, in hopes of graduating and becoming a police officer” (Pravin Action Committee).

Pravin mysteriously disappeared on the night of February 12th. He had attended a party with friends at 606 W. College Street. He was supposed to be going to a bar, just 3 blocks away from the party to meet up with friends. However, he somehow ended up in the truck of Gaege Bethune on Illinois Route 13, just east of Carbondale. “At 12:33am, an Illinois State Trooper stopped to investigate a car “in distress” on the shoulder of Illinois Route 13. The driver stated to the Illinois State Trooper that he was giving a black man a ride, asked him for gas money, and the passenger punched him, got out of the truck, and ran. The Trooper briefly searched the shoulder with his flashlight but found nothing” (Stafford). But, he found nothing. The Trooper noticed a mark on the driver’s face but did nothing about it.

There were several people who were involved in the case of Pravin Varughese. Pravin Varughese of Morton Grove, Illinois, whose life was cut way too short. Gage Bethune of Carbondale, Illinois, the driver who was the last one to see Varughese alive. The Illinois State Trooper, Trooper Martin, who stopped behind Bethune’s car and “conducted a search” of the woods. The Carbondale Police Department, who “helped” find Pravin and “handled” the case. Also involved was the Illinois State Police, who also “handled” the case. Monica Zukas, a local radio show host is “reporting” the case to the general public.

The story of the death of Pravin Varughese is a mystery. Friends of the driver went to Carbondale Police department and spoke with detectives, telling them everything they had been told. After hearing this, the Police Department brought the driver in for questioning. They connected his stop on the side of the road with the missing student. It was only after this incident that Pravin’s body was found in a wooded area, just east of Buffalo Wild Wings and Kohl’s of Carbondale. The stories only came forth once the News aired a broadcast, asking for anyone who had information regarding the case to please contact the Police Department.

Monica Zukas never knew this family, didn’t even know they existed, until she heard the story of Pravin. Monica is a local radio show host, who covers the “controversial” topics: corruption, misleading cases, mainly anything pertaining to the general public. She does not call herself a public figure, but some would say she is. She does not realize the impact she has on people’s lives. Monica at first did not want to get involved and could not get emotionally involved. She was already involved in the Molly Young case, but God put his works on her, and He had a plan for her to help this family out.

Monica uploads her shows to Sound cloud, a website to upload music and voice clips. She has over 200 followers on this site and over 5,000 followers on Facebook. She maxed out the amount of followers on one page and had to create another. Her very first radio show on Pravin had over 52,000 listeners. Since then, she has done 8 radio shows on Pravin’s story. All of the shows have had between 1,000 and 35,000 listeners. She is reaching so many people, from all over the world! She has had Pravin’s mom on her show several times. I recently got the amazing opportunity to interview Monica. She was very professional and helped clear up things that I had questions on. She knew exactly what she was talking about and gave great detail in her answers.
*In a disclaimer given by Monica, her comments are strictly her own opinions!*

Interview with Monica Zukas
1. If the driver told Trooper Martin that he had gotten into an argument with someone and the person ran into the woods, why didn’t Martin radio in for backup?
A: I think Trooper Martin is saying he didn’t do this, because he spoke to Gaege (the driver) and Gaege said he did not want to press any charges that is why he did not take any measures.

2. Why did it take so long for the dash cam video to be released?
A: They were trying to hide the fact that Trooper Martin had handled the case wrong.

3. Why didn’t the first autopsy “catch” the bruising?
A: We don’t know. It is part of the big mystery. Autopsy’s are like 2 different people vacuuming the same room, one may just vacuum the middle; whereas, another may go into complete detail and move everything and make sure there is no dirt left anywhere. Pathologist number one did not do a toxicology report on the fluid from the eye. Pathologist number 2 got to do the toxicology report and also got to look into the bruising on Pravin into more depth. He discovered that the defensive wound on the arm that the bruising went all the way through to the bone.

4. Why didn’t Trooper Martin file an incident report?
A: He did file a report, but it wasn’t generated until after Pravin was found.

5. If the driver had a noticeable mark on his face, why didn’t Martin conduct a search or call for backup?
A: It makes absolutely no sense…

6. Why did it take so long to find Pravin’s body?
A: They never put two-and-two together.

7. Was Jody O’Guinns dismissal a coincidence?
A: No, they thought that they were going to get everyone to be quiet about everything that was going on.

8. Why won’t Carbondale Police Department release their autopsy?
A: They are not releasing anything because it is an ongoing investigation. If the second autopsy had not been done, we would not know anything.

9. If they (The Police) called it a “drug case” knowing it was so cold, why didn’t they conduct a search?
A: At the time, they didn’t know anyone was missing.

10. Why did Pravin’s family have their own autopsy performed and what were the findings?
A: Lovely noticed a mark on Pravin’s head, while they were still in Carbondale, but he was covered from neck down what a sheet. When they transferred his body to Chicago to be prepared for burial. The funeral director told Lovely “you need to go see your baby. He has injuries.” They discovered that the cause of death was Blunt Force Trauma to the head. This would have disoriented Pravin, keeping him from getting out of the woods.

11. What are some things that you and Pravin’s family are doing to raise awareness to this investigation?
A: They went to Washington and met with several Representatives. Also, we have held press conferences regarding the case, and I have held many radio shows on this investigation.

12. Why did you get involved and how? Do you think you can help shed light on the corruption in Carbondale, especially the Police Department?
A: At first I didn’t want to and could not get emotionally involved, but then I started getting messages on Facebook and it reminded me so much of the Molly Young case. I had high hopes that they would get it right this time. The Press Conference infuriated me. They used phrases that were not even true! Phrases such as “recent acquaintance” and “unfamiliar with the area.” Pravin had lived here for almost a year and worked as a delivery boy for Jimmy Johns. I was at Larry Young’s house while I was watching the conference.

13. Do you think they will ever release the original autopsy report to the family?
A: Absolutely! They have to when the case is closed. It makes you wonder what they are hiding.

14. Are there laws prohibiting the release of the autopsy report?
A: I’m not sure, but it could possibly be a civil rights violation?

15. How many times have you spoken or met with Pravin’s family?
A: They have stayed with my family and I and I have stayed with them on several occasions. I’ve seen them in person at least a dozen times and lost count of how many times I have spoken with them.

16. Has there been a good response on your show to this topic?
A: Yeah! The second show there were 55,000 reviews. People from all over the world saw it.

17. Are there any new discoveries on this case?
A: People tag me in things on social media all the time and tell us things we don’t know.

18. Who do you think is at fault in Pravin’s death?
A: In this order, Gaege, Trooper Martin, Carbondale Police Department and Illinois State Police Department.

19. Do you think the outcome could of and would have been different had Trooper Martin conducted a more thorough search and or detained Gage that night?
A: 100%! They could have found him and he might have still been alive!

20. Why didn’t they ping Pravin’s phone?
A: I don’t know if they tried it and it didn’t work or what. I think his phone had probably died by the time that they did anything.

21. What do you think of Pravin’s last tweet?
A: He was just being a smart aleck, typical Pravin.
This interview was conducted on January 10th, 2015. (Zukas).

Archangels of Justice, who are they? They are two former lawmen, which together have 81+ years of investigative service. They are covering the case of Pravin Varughese, as well as many others. They say that there is corruption in Carbondale, especially the police department. They also agree that Carbondale Police Department is covering up for the wrongs that were done in the Varughese case. They, like Monica, had never even heard of the Varughese family. They are complete strangers who want to help make a difference in the injustice that the families of victims have been going through. They work making no profit, and everything they do is money-free. They will be attending a press conference in Carbondale on February 13th, 2015.

article-2566300-1BC664AB00000578-164_634x354There is a major line between murder and accident. Yet, in some cases, it’s tough to tell the difference, especially when there is no witnesses, no cameras, and evidence left behind except the body. The question comes to play of whether or not Pravin’s death was a murder or an accident. Pravin’s body was not found until five days after he had disappeared. “The temperature the night of his disappearance was 14 degrees” (Stafford). Pravin had lain in the woods for five days straight. Animals, Mother Nature, and the natural process of the body had destroyed much of the evidence that would be necessary in determining whether or not Pravin was murdered or died as a freaky accident.

The second autopsy showed that Pravin may not have died from hypothermia. However, he may have died from Blunt Force Trauma to the head. Blunt Force Trauma is as known as follows:

Blunt Force Trauma is a severe traumatic episode caused to the body or head with sudden introduction of a blunt instrument with a great force. This can be caused by an attacker striking out a victim with their hands, a large, heavy object, a heavy piece of wood, or other large items that would cause heavy impact and damage to the body or skull, if impacted against them quickly. One sign of Blunt Force Trauma that was present on Pravin’s body is bruising. Bruising often indicates a broken blood vessel beneath the surface of the skin. Although some bruising may be present, this does not amount to any underlying damage… (Claridge).

Pravin’s family filed a Civil Lawsuit in the Court of Claims of The State of Illinois. They accuse Carbondale Police Department of botching the investigation and they accuse Gaege of causing Pravin’s death (Stafford). The beginning paragraph, describing what it is for states:

This is a tort claim for the wrongful death of Pravin Varughese brought by Lovely Varughese as administrator of the Estate of Pravin Varughese, based on the acts or omissions to act committed by Trooper Martin of the Illinois State Police, District 13, in the investigation of an incident that occurred on February 12th, 2014 between Gaege Bethune, a resident of Jackson and state of Illinois and Pravin Varughese, a student at SIU Carbondale, Jackson County, Illinois leading up to the death by Blunt Force Trauma to the head of Pravin Varughese. In the legal document, there is a timeline of the events of Pravin’s death included.

In this timeline, it goes step-by-step through everything that happened the night of Pravin’s disappearance. It was not until almost 8am the next morning that Pravin was reported missing. On February 17th, Bethune and a group of friends were watching a story on the news about the disappearance of Varughese and Bethune told his friends that that was the guy he had gotten into a fight with. Bethune then left the house and his friends immediately went to the police department. They told detectives everything, including that a state trooper had been on the scene. A police report wasn’t filed until after Pravin’s body was discovered. The dash cam video was also released, “The Troopers video showed Bethune walking up the embankment to his vehicle. The Trooper also scanned the area at the bottom of the embankment from the shoulder of the roadway with his flashlight (Lovely Varughese vs. Illinois St. Police).

546cf72ea78d7.imageLovely and the Varughese family just want answers in the death of their baby boy. They do not understand how someone could do this to such a sweet, caring, loving boy. They just want Justice for him and for him to be able to rest in peace. They aren’t asking much, but Pravin was their world, brother, son, cousin, nephew, grandson, and friend. They just want to understand what truly happened the night of his disappearance and why things happened the way that they did. Nothing can change the fact that Pravin is gone, but they can still be his voice. One day, they will again be united as a family, with Pravin, and they will get to hold their baby boy in their arms again.

Lovely, Pravin’s mom has made several comments throughout the course of Pravin’s case. It seemed like a better decision after all, to group them all together. A warning however, some of these are heartbreaking cries from a mother who only wants answers….

“My son is gone and there is nothing that anyone does that can bring him back but I hope there is something that this will accomplish.”
I just hope that this case would shed some kind of light into the system in Carbondale so this does not happen to another family” (Hernandez).
“Results of my son’s second autopsy are now in the hands of a family attorney. I will continue to press authorities for answers.
I will fight to my last breath. Whatever we’ve been through shouldn’t happen to another family. Whatever they did in Carbondale, or didn’t do, that has to change (Bullington).
“This is somebody we were hoping would do his job because, in our case, nothing happened. Right now we feel like we are one step closer to our son.

There is something that happened that night. All we want to know is what really happened to our son… we are hoping the new leadership will look into the investigation a little bit more seriously.

We are still looking for the truth to come out in this case” (Cox).

All that the family wants is answers. The life of their son was in the Police Department, Trooper Martin, and Gaege’s hands and they all failed him. Pravin’s case is being reviewed by the Jackson County State’s Attorney. In a statement released by the family attorney, “The recent findings of the toxicology report have confirmed the family steadfast belief that Pravin was neither intoxicated nor under the influence of drugs” (Hernandez). However, in a statement released by the State’s Attorney, “The family’s comment about Pravin being alcohol and drug free was not completely accurate,” completely contradicting the family and their attorney (Duncan).

Pravin was known throughout the community of Carbondale. He was a delivery boy for Jimmy Johns, so he met several people on a day-to-day basis and went to SIU, so he was known among students. Pravin’s hometown is rallying around the family and they are devastated in Pravin’s death. One of Pravin’s close friends made the statement that “We knew right away obviously something else had happened. It didn’t even look like the same person. The officer’s called it a drug case the night of the party because there were drugs present at the party. I hope with people outside of Carbondale hearing the story, the truth will finally come out (Dixon).

Pravin is gone, nothing can change that. Without him here, we may never know exactly 100% what happened. There are many questions left unanswered and there are so many conflicts with people’s words. All that the family wants is for their son to be able to rest in peace. Pravin was found almost a year ago (February will be a year) and yet, no answers have been found in Pravin’s case. Although Pravin is not physically here, his voice can still be heard around the world!
We love you Pravin, may you forever Rest in Peace.

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