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Pravin Varughese lived another day before he died: Attorney Charles Stegmeyer

Interview with attorney fighting for justice for the Varughese family.  

By Raif Karerat

PravinVarugheseCoverWASHINGTON, DC: The investigation into the death of Pravin Varughese has been ongoing since last year, when he was found dead under suspicious circumstances in the woods of Carbondale, Illinois.

The case has raised numerous questions about the scruples of both the local police department and State’s Attorney Michael Carr, who recently convened a secret grand jury in order to acquit the primary suspect in Varughese’s alleged murder, Gaege Bethune, without any indication of which evidence, if any, was actually presented.

After months of controversy pertaining to false coroners’ reports, negligent police work, and an obstinate attitude from local authorities, the Varughese family still continues to press onward for justice for Pravin, who was only 19 when he tragically passed.

The Varughese family’s attorney Charles Stegmeyer spoke with The American Bazaar over the phone and elaborated on the finer details of the case and what the motivating factors have been so far.

What was your reaction when you found out State’s Attorney Andrew Carr had convened a secret grand jury?

Shocked and astonished. Blown away. Any other adjective I could use to express the unbelievable actions by the State’s Attorney.

What were the grounds that allowed the secret grand jury to be convened after there was evidence of a police cover-up?

One: grand juries are basically private affairs. That’s by law. Two: the State’s Attorney can present whomever they want to the grand jury. That means Carr could have just presented a police report and nothing else. However, because of the two diametrically opposed coroners’ reports, and in order to remain transparent, the [forensics] report from our doctor in Chicago should have been presented. We don’t know who or what he presented.

How did the Varughese family find out?

What happened was I got a phone call saying the grand jury had convened and had not found enough evidence to charge Bethune with murder. They then proceeded to announce a special prosecutor would be appointed to make an independent decision on whether Gaege Bethune should be charged with murder or some other offense, which is unprecedented in the criminal justice field. Because what he’s doing is asking for collateral evidence that the grand jury was right. He is in effect, now wanting a second opinion. Which raises some questions. Did someone from the Department of Justice pressure him into appointing a special prosecutor?

What have your interactions been like with the Carbondale Police and the Office of the State’s Attorney?

Uncooperative. I’ll give you an illustration. When the case was concluded, Pravin’s personal effects should have been returned to his family. I have postmortem pictures of Pravin which include his cell phone and his shirt. As we sit here today, none of my requests for those have been answered. Where is his cell phone? Where is the shirt he was wearing on the night this occurred? When the body was returned all he was wearing was underwear, a pair of blue jeans, one sock, and one shoe. Where are the rest of the items, who has them, and do they have them?

Do you believe any racial or cultural undertones have come into play?

Absolutely. The Department of Justice has assigned a number to this case, and in my opinion it should be for civil rights violations. In the initial report given by Bethune, he mentions to the state police officer that he was in an “altercation with a black man” and the “black man,” who was actually Pravin, “ran into the woods.” Upon having that information, on video, the state police officer did a cursory review of the scene, i.e. he flashed his light a couple of times, then he got in his squad car and left. Hypothetically, propose it was the white quarterback of the football team? What if it had been a white member of the baseball team, or the basketball team, or a white cheerleader. Wouldn’t the helicopters have been out that night, combing the woods, with backup from the Sheriff’s office? According to the second autopsy, Pravin lived another day before he died.

Do you believe the fact that Carbondale is a college town influenced the investigation?

Yes. Let me give you a different example. Last year, there were 65 complaints of sexual abuse. A number of them came from the college. Of the 65, Carr investigated five.

Lovely Varghuese told The American Bazaar that she would be asking the Illinois governor to launch a formal investigation into Andrew Carr’s handling of her son’s case. What happens now? What is the status of the investigation by the US Justice Department — are you able to speak about?

I can’t really say, a lot of it is confidential, so let’s leave it at that.

Fair enough. Is there any non-classified direction you’ll be taking that you’re able to talk about?

We intend to decide whether to appeal the grand jury’s decision. We also intend to vigorously try to intervene in the appointment of the special prosecutor to set guidelines that would ensure transparency by the special prosecutor.

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8 Comments

  1. FloyydRTurbbo
     /  Reply

    One crucial mistake and negligence by the officer who took the report from the truck driver, led to a serial coverup by the coroner and now with the buck of the coverup stopping at Mr.Carr’s office !. The truck driver who reported “altercation with a black man and he ran into the woods” was a cover up, not only for the ethnicity of the victim (he might looked black,but when he spoke i am sure he knew he was Asian and not black) but deceit and lie of what really happened.

    This man either chased him into the woods or carried him into the woods (he inflicted the blunt trauma either before or after) and let him succumb to hypothermia and death. He murdered him. No sane and fit teenager would go into the woods and die of hypothermia. What has transpired in the investigation and grand jury trial is travesty of justice in the Heartland of America. The verdict of the secret grand jury should be null and void and the case reopened by the Justice department.

    • Donna Marie
       /  Reply

      The fact that they were looking for Pravin Varughese and the other party didn’t tell the police where he left him off . Red lights should have flashed all over this case . If it takes one week for someone to remember ………….there is foul play involve .

    • Dzyre
       /  Reply

      I agree Floyyd. I found it extremely strange how a young, fit, healthy man would die of hypothermia in the woods when it wasn’t even abnormally cold.

  2. Carol Crawford
     /  Reply

    This has been botched from the beginning. Carbondale, Illinois covers up murder, so parents keep sending their kids to SIU. Molly Youngs murder was also covered-up. There will be Justice for Pravin and Molly!

  3. Donna Marie
     /  Reply

    The fact that they were looking for Pravin Varughese the next day and the other party said nothing to the police where he was at . Right there should flash red lights . If they could have got to him in time would he still be alive . It was a week later he confessed to knowing were the body was at .

  4. Donna Marie
     /  Reply

    I hope the family sues this person for the death of their son .

  5. Dzyre
     /  Reply

    THIS IS INJUSTICE. This was a good person who lost his life way too soon. I would fill this page with all the red flags with this case. Simply disgusting how Carbondale police handled this. The blatant coverup is absolutely reprehensible. I am still astounded as to why they haven’t interrogated this filth further more, what more evidence do they need? My heart continues to be the this young man and his family.

  6. FloyydRTurbbo
     /  Reply

    Anatomy of Murder, Incompetence, Deceit and Cover-up: The facts of the case are as follows:
    * PV came into contact with the GB the night of Feb.12th 2014, The last tweet by PV, was at 11-17PM which read “Bloody knukcles…guess I was in a fight” The Highway Patrol officer, found the truck with GB, standing next to the passenger side of the truck around 12-33 AM. GB was near the scene where PV’s body was found, between 11-17 PM and 12-33 AM. This is the time period, GB was perpetrating the crime, that he later concealed it with lies and innuendos. He voluntarily came forward to the police and the grand jury-proving himself more as a Good Samaritan than a murderer.

    * GB told the officer that he was assaulted by PV, whom, he described as “black” and added “He ran into the woods”
    * The officer only noted a red spot on GB’s right cheek and no other injury on him.
    * The officer did a cursory search in the direction of the woods and let GB go.
    * The autopsy by the Jackson County coroner did not mention blunt trauma and only cause as hypothermia (it is obvious the coroner was told to conceal the real cause of death)
    * The family was allowed only to see the face of the body and the blunt trauma was detected by the mother who is a nurse and the funeral director. The subsequent second autopsy by an independent forensic pathologist, Ben Margolis, revealed the extensive blunt trauma on his body and head.

    This is what might have transpired, since we cannot go by what this man GB, said to the police.
    GB saw PV tweeting on this cell phone and GB was afraid that PV would tweet his ID and the ID of the vehicle. So he decided to end PV’s life He came after him and that is when PV started running to the woods to get away from him. GB might have chased PV into the woods and left him disabled and die in the woods with full knowledge that he would not survive in that environment.

    The IHP and the local police, failed-even callous-to connect the dots when the missing person report came in, since GB purposely identified PV as black and subsequent story was concocted to deceive the CHP and the local police.

    The coroner covered for the police and the DA covered for the police and the coroner by black mailing the mother about the non existent drug usage by PV. When this ploy failed he continued the coverup by not presenting the facts to the secret ! grand jury.

    This is a blatant case of travesty of justice, perpetrated by a man who was elected and took oath of office. He was entrusted to fight crime and not promote or cover up the crime and the criminal.
    The case should be re-opened. The murderer and all involved in the cover up brought to justice including the DA.

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