MURPHYSBORO — In accordance with a judge’s order, attorneys representing the state of Illinois have dropped charges against Gaege Bethune in the 2014 death of Southern Illinois University student Pravin Varughese.

Prosecutors say they plan to start from scratch and rebuild a case against Bethune. Special Prosecutor David Robinson said he and his team have filed a motion for nolle prosequi — a motion formally abandoning charges made by the prosecution — in the case, which will drop the current set of charges.

“We are dismissing the case outright,” Robinson said.

Bethune was convicted earlier this year in the 2014 death of Varughese. The state alleged during the trial that Bethune punched Varughese in the head, which set off a chain of events that ended with Varughese's death in the elements on a cold night in February.

However, Judge Mark Clarke vacated the conviction and ordered a new trial just before the sentencing phase because of a potential problem with jury instructions. 

Clarke’s reason for hitting reset on the trial was for what he deemed possibly confusing wording in the indictment. He said in his official ruling that while he had no reason to believe the jury was confused by the charges, he also could not rule it out.

The Illinois Supreme Court recently denied a request by the state to review Clarke’s decision.

Robinson said Thursday that the state will begin again by re-investigating the murder case against Bethune as well as allegations of juror harassment — the state is alleging inappropriate contact between Bethune’s defense team and a juror.

“Those cases will be back to the pre-charge stage,” he said of the murder and juror tampering allegations. 

In a news release from Robinson's office, the fate of future charges was unclear. It says the office "is currently reviewing the totality of circumstances in order to determine whether to seek a new indictment."

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On Twitter: @ismithreports



Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Jackson County.

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