Opening statements given in trial of man in death of student

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (AP) — Opening statements were given in the trial of a man accused in the 2014 death of a Southern Illinois University student.

Special Prosecutor David Robinson on Wednesday told the jury Gaege Bethune committed two crimes in February 2014 — aggravated battery and robbery. Those crimes led to the death of Pravin Varughese (VAHR’-geez).

Robinson said an intoxicated Bethune and Varughese drove around Carbondale looking for cocaine, with Varughese contributing $25 toward the effort. After an unsuccessful search, the pair argued, with Varughese taking back most of the $25 and, although wearing only a T-shirt and blue jeans, got out the car. That is when Bethune punched Varughese several times.

Defense attorney Michael Wepsiec said hypothermia was the only cause of death in the case and Bethune had nothing to do with it.

The 22-year-old Bethune was arrested three years after Varughese’s body was found in the woods off Illinois 13 on Feb. 18, 2014.

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