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Ryan Michalesko, For The Southern 

Marion's Justin Saddoris works to get a pass by Carbondale's Jakeba Burleigh (22) and Clayton Greer (3) during Friday's game in Carbondale.

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1 dead, 1 hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after Thursday night shooting in Carbondale

One person died and another suffered life-threatening wounds after a shooting Thursday night in Carbondale.

According to a news release from the Carbondale Police Department, officers responded to the rear parking lot of 409 East Mill Street at about 11:26 p.m. Thursday after receiving reports of gunshots.

Two victims were found to have suffered gunshot wounds. Police have identified one victim as Brandon L. Brooks, 35, of Carbondale. Brooks died as a result of his injuries. 

The other victim, who is not being identified at this time, was transported to a St. Louis-area hospital.

The victim with life-threatening wounds was involved in a traffic crash while en route to the hospital, the release states. The crash occurred at the intersection of West Main Street and North Illinois Avenue and those involved suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

The investigation is currently active. Police said a dispute between acquaintances appears to have led to the shooting. 

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the police department at 618-457-3200 or the anonymous Crime Stoppers tip line at 618-549-2677.

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Carbondale | Varughese Murder Case
Murder trial in death of Pravin Varughese will stay in Jackson County ... for now

MURPHYSBORO — The murder trial of the man accused in the death of Pravin Varughese, a 19-year-old Southern Illinois University student who was found dead in Carbondale four years ago Sunday, is set to begin June 4 in Jackson County.

The date was set during court proceedings Friday. Despite a motion from the defense to move the trial, it looks like the Jackson County Circuit Court is going to give the highly-publicized murder trial a go in its own county.

Gaege Bethune, who is charged with murder in Varughese's death, learned Friday that Circuit Court Judge Mark Clarke will reserve a ruling on a change of venue motion until after the attorneys — Michael Wepseic for the defense and David Robinson for the state — have completed “vior dire,” or a preliminary examination of a witness or a juror by a judge or counsel. Essentially, the judge wants the attorneys to go through the process to see if a jury with alternates can be found locally before agreeing to move the trial.

Bethune, 23, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the death of Varughese, a 19-year-old student who was found dead in the woods behind the Carbondale Buffalo Wild Wings on Feb. 18, 2014.

On the same day Bethune appeared in court, Varughese's family and friends gathered at the place where Varughese's body was found four years earlier, in order to hold a memorial service. 

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

Pravin Varughese's sister, Priya, father, Matthew, and mother, Lovely, pause following a memorial service for him on Friday morning in Carbondale four years after his body was found.

During the motion hearing, Wepseic said he's positive that the amount of media coverage of his client’s case has had an influence on the opinions of several Jackson County residents.

He called the media attention unprecedented from the time Varughese went missing, saying there were daily reports regarding the search for the teenager and bi-weekly reports into the investigation and law enforcement action against Bethune even after one year.

Wepseic told the court the amount of media attention makes vior dire “insufficient.” He cited cases where trials have moved in the state, such as that of Richard Speck, who was convicted of murdering eight student nurses in 1966, and the 1980 trial of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, in which a Cook County judge brought in a jury from another county.

“I strain my memory to remember any case that has this much attention,” Wepseic said.

He said he fears the court will start the process, and it will run into so many people who have heard or read enough about the case that they can’t be impartial.

In the state’s response, Robinson said trials that have moved are much more prolific than Bethune’s case.

“Gaege Bethune is no Richard Speck, and he is no John Wayne Gacy,” he said.

Robinson said that while there are some citizens who have made up their minds about this case, the process will weed out those individuals — and neither side wants them on the jury anyway.

“The citizens of Jackson County have the right to judge a crime committed in that county,” he said. “We have a right to make sure that happens.”

He said he is confident the court can find 12 jurors and alternates.

Clark said if the court moved the trial, the media attention surrounding the cases would be there as well.

“We would be dealing with a lot of the same issues wherever we went,” he said.

Clarke said he didn’t possess the materials to establish bias in the county, but he had concerns. He said every time somebody thinks they are helping by making a comment in the public about their opinions on the matter, they are adding another paragraph to the defendant's next change of venue motion.

In a separate motion, Wepseic wanted to throw out testimony made by a witness during grand jury proceedings that Bethune was seen outside a party in Carbondale on the night of Varughese’s death, “jiggling” car handles, attempting to break in.

Wepseic said that testimony has no bearing on the state and the state “just wants to paint Bethune as a bad guy and needs to be convicted on first-degree murder.”

Robinson responded by saying it shows that the defendant was looking for drugs and had “a lust for money” in order to make a purchase. He said he finds it impossible that a jury in a first-degree murder case would take this detail and automatically convict him of murder because of it.

“This is something that shows Bethune is a person you can’t trust,” Robinson said.

On rebuttal, Wepseic said this is no proof the incident even happened except for one person’s testimony, which has been denied by Bethune and the person the witness said Bethune was with on the night in question. He said it's nothing more than an attempt to sully Bethune’s reputation in front of a jury.

Clark said he would take the motion under advisement until full discovery has been turned in. He said he was being asked to determine what would be and wouldn’t be allowed in trial without the benefit of a full discovery.

Carbondale man charged in summer stabbing says he is ready for trial


MURPHYSBORO — A Carbondale man’s legal team said Friday they are ready for trial in defense of an attempted murder charge stemming from an incident in August.

Nathan Bowles, 36, is charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery after he allegedly stabbed an acquaintance on Aug. 27 in the 400 block of East Sycamore Street. His attorney, Christian Baril of Carbondale, said he is ready for trial, which is set to start March 12. Assistant State’s Attorney Casey Bloodworth did so as well.

Additionally, Baril filed a motion to reduce Bowles’ bail amount from $1 million to $50,000, which he had the funds to post. Baril said Bowles would live with his mother in Carbondale, who has a medical issue. Baril said Bowles would like to be tested to see if he could be a donor match for her.

The state asked the court to deny the motion due to the fact Bowles was charged with a violent act and he has a criminal history of theft and arson.

Circuit Court Judge Mark Clarke ruled to drop bail to $150,000, meaning Bowles would have to post $15,000 bond to be released.

Baril also filed a motion to have prior convictions precluded during the trial. Bowles has been convicted of theft, a Class 4 felony, twice, in 2012 and 2015 in Jackson County. He was also convicted of arson, a Class 2 felony, in 2010 in Williamson County.

Baril argued the jury wouldn’t be able to set aside the prior convictions of the defendant, therefore leading to an unfair trial.

Bloodworth argued that credibility is a huge part of this case, considering the defense will say the stabbing that took place in August was in self-defense because the victim was attempting to stab the defendant.

Clarke ruled the two theft convictions would be allowed, but the arson conviction would not. 

A third motion, this one filed by the state, to allow other crimes or bad acts as evidence was granted by the judge.

Bloodworth argued that drugs were a big part of this incident. He said Bowles and the victim were involved in procuring drugs and there is witness testimony that the defendant picked up money from the victim after the incident.

Baril argued that the state’s argument is about dollar bills, not drugs. He said it would make the jury prejudicial.

Before ruling in the state’s favor, Clarke said the jury is entitled to hear who did what and why, and to understand why the men were fighting, it needs to know just that.