tv Dateline MSNBC January 21, 2023 10:00pm-11:00pm PST
when you add comcast business mobile. or, ask how to get up to a $750 prepaid card. complete connectivity. one solution, for wherever business takes you. comcast business. powering possibilities. ♪ every search you make ♪ ♪ every click you take ♪ ♪ i'll be watching you ♪ - [narrator] the internet doesn't have to be so creepy, the duckduckgo app, >> i'm natalie morales, and lets you search and browse pria blocking most trackers all forf your search history is never tracked, so it can't be shared. and when you leave search, duckduckgo helps keep companies from watching you as you brows. join tens of millions of people making the easy switch by downloading the app today. duckduckgo, privacy simplified. this is dateline. >> we might get an answer for this. >> a dramatic chapter in the
story of two mothers fighting for their sons. >> he knows he heard my sound bad. >> i believe every word my son 's heads and i'd still due to this day. >> missing tean found dead. >> his body was laying in the river clearing. >> we want answers. we want answers. >> was it murder? >> i said who beat my baby? >> or was it something else? >> he got out of the vehicle, swung on me. >> how do you get in a scuffle with somebody and the next thing you know your being charged with murder? >> a trial. >> i slowly watch my son die every day. >> heartbreak. >> nobody wins. >> and a twist that stunned everyone. >> it was the first time i've ever had this happen. we had to >> stop and think whether we heard it right. >> hello and welcome to "dateline". it's been said there is nothing more powerful than a mother's love for her child. and no greater pain than losing a child. both forces collide in a small
midwestern town, when a mysterious death sparked a search for justice. it also divided a community and turned strangers into allies. the outcome left both sides reeling. here's dennis murphy with "at the edge of town". >> yards from the chicken place is an unlikely scrap of wilderness in a southern illinois town. a thicket of vines and rumbles. acres of thorns that tear at the flush. four years, people just sped by without a second look. but something terrible happened there one cold night in the
winter of 2014. that brought a stranger to town. a mother, looking for answers about her son. >> i knew one thing, i wasn't going to stop. >> no matter how painful the truth turned out to be. does it hurt you to be back here? >> yes. >> her heartbreak launched another mother's fight. >> i wanted to save my son. i'm a fighter. i'm a mom. >> and divided an entire community. >> no matter who you are, no matter where you came from, right is right and wrong is wrong. ♪ ♪ ♪ >> few people know this part of southern illinois better than monica's lucas. this mother of two children has spent most of her life in these parts. >> i think for the average a small town, america. >> who runs it? >> that's a hard question. until something goes wrong, we all do.
>> welcome to reality with monica. >> and for years, she hosted a friday night radio show called reality check. did you check scandal or city hall, politics? >> oh, yeah. oh yeah. i like to push the envelope a little bit. >> so, it wasn't unusual for people to send her tips about stories to watch. that's how this all began in february, 2014. >> i had a random facebook message from somebody i've never heard of and it said, have you heard about this? and it was a link to a flyer for a missing person. >> 19-year-old pravin varughese. a college sophomore at southern illinois university in carbondale. last seen leaving a house party, stepping out into the bitter cold. >> and i was like, where did this kid go? >> why did you think maybe he took an early spring break to travel? >> the young man that contacted me was in distress. he said, this is abnormal, he would not do this. something is wrong.
>> monica learned that pravin came from chicago, a six hour drive away. he was the adored middle child of two first generation immigrants from india. his dad was a respiratory therapist, his mom lovely, a nurse. >> thursday morning i walk up with this awful feeling of something heavy in my chest. >> when the phone rang that night, lovely expected to hear pravin's voice. he called whom most evenings. but it wasn't her son, it was a police officer. >> and he said, well, your son is reported missing by his cousin. i just screamed. everything changed that moment. everything changed. >> so, lovely and her husband drove to carbondale and met their daughter at pravin's student apartment. there was no sign of their boy. >> my parents are just so mentally out of it. it was just so hard. i felt like i had to be the one to step up, because this my brother. i wanted to find him more than anything in the world. i just wanted him back. >> pre-organize bus loads of volunteers who showed up from
chicago to help the family search. they handed out flyers, posted them on telephone poles and investigations. desperate for clues. >> we had no idea what happened to pravin at that point. >> police were searching, to. >> jody is the former police chief. >> we had 14 canines to help search the areas for him. we had two helicopters out. we had the state police play. >> so you were doubling this thing off? >> no, not. >> and then the road right now. you didn't know where he was. >> we did not know where he was. >> lovely's family ask the public for help. they offered $15,000 in reward money. this is really the start of a very long journey for you. >> yes. >> a journey that began as a search for her son, but soon became something else. a search for truth and kindness. and finally, justice. >> coming up -- >> the statement was pravin seemed to be intoxicated and was unable to tell where it was he was going. >> a first clue and the last person to see a pravin life. >> now we have an area to look for. >> but what they discover will
tear to families apart. >> and i thought, this just doesn't sound right though. >> when "dateline" continues. nues ♪breeze driftin' on by...♪ ♪...you know how i feel.♪ you don't have to take... [coughing] ...copd sitting down. ♪it's a new dawn,...♪ ♪...it's a new day,♪ it's time to make a stand. ♪and i'm feelin' good.♪ start a new day with trelegy. no once-daily copd... ...medicine has the power to treat copd... ...in as many ways as trelegy. with three medicines in one inhaler,... ...trelegy makes breathing easier for a full 24 hours, improves lung function, and helps prevent future flare-ups. trelegy won't replace a rescue inhaler... ...for sudden breathing problems. tell your doctor if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure before taking it. do not take trelegy more than prescribed. trelegy may increase your risk of thrush, pneumonia, and osteoporosis. call your doctor if worsened breathing, chest pain, mouth or tongue swelling, problems urinating,... ...vision changes, or eye pain occur. take a stand, and start a new day with trelegy. ask your doctor about once-daily trelegy...
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singing, dancing, running. he had made varsity on his high school track team. >> his cross-country coach said, i don't know any kid that can run that fast and talk and crack jokes. >> reporter: personality, what are we talking about? >> funny, always joking, smiling, never held a grudge. ever. >> reporter: but his real dream was to become an fbi agent. the criminal justice program at southern illinois university was well regarded. and or something else the university was known for. >> when we looked at the college, my husband said, that's a party college. >> party boys? >> which college is not a party college, he said. >> reporter: a party was the last place pravin had been seen. >> did he fit into this party crowd, by what you could tell?
>> we had a lot of his friends that told us that he partied with them on a regular basis. >> drink until they get sloppy? how did they characterize it? >> he did drink until he got drunk, sometimes. >> reporter: including, witnesses told police, at the party the night of his disappearance. >> they were creating a disturbance and were asked to leave. >> reporter: pravin's expected him to meet up at a bar but he never showed. they never saw him the next day or the day after. four days after he was reported missing, someone came forward with a tip. pravin had scored a ride after the party. cops i tracked down the driver. >> he seemed to be intoxicated and unable to tell where he was going. >> reporter: there appeared to be a fight and police say pravin ran into the woods. -- >> reporter: teen stand out to search. it didn't take long.
>> his body was laying in the middle of a clearing. he didn't have a shirt on. he had a cell phone nearby. >> temperature had been 14 degrees overnight? >> 14 degrees, yes. >> reporter: it looked as if praveen had frozen to death in the woods. >> so this was tough for the family. >> yes. >> reporter: a police officer showed up at lovely's hotel room door. >> he said that we found pravin. and i said, is he alive? they said no. >> and it turned out he was found some rough woods not far from your motel. >> not far from the motel, yes. >> all those days you are
wondering where he was. >> it was hard for me, knowing that he was alone, and we weren't able to tell that we could love him. and he died alone in the middle of the woods. >> reporter: she wasn't just said, he was angry. priya thought she heard the police judging her brother. >> they said he was drunk. >> college guy, could couldn't handle his liquor, ended up dead. >> reporter: police had a news conference that afternoon. >> the difficult terrain and cold temperatures seem to have contributed to pravin's difficulty finding his way out of the woods. >> monica watched the professor at a friends. >> i thought, this doesn't sound right, though. she was struck by the sight of pravin's mother on tv. lovely had gone to the scene where her son died. >> when i first saw his mom, i remember thinking, she's obviously not from southern illinois. >> she's a stranger in a strange land. >> she does not know this town. i have so many questions and i'm from here. >> reporter: monica didn't know
it, but lovely had questions to. when she got back to chicago, the funeral director, handling pravin's had disturbing news. >> he said, lovely, you are a nurse, right? i said yes. he said, you need to see him, this is not a frostbitten body. lovely had seen several dead bodies during her career as a nurse, but she never expected to see her own sons. she was shocked by what she saw. a massive bruise on pravin's and other bruises on his thigh. his lip was busted up. >> if a civilian had seen the body, would they say, i have seen an injury? >> yes. >> reporter: but lovely wanted and expert opinion and she wanted one and so she hired her own pathologist, dr. ben margolis. he noted injuries that were not seen, including a injury all the way to the bone, possibly a defensive injury. >> if you are stumbling around the woods in the dark, and you trip, and had a, rocket that
closet? >> that's really not enough. >> so the more you became familiar with it, you thought, this boy suffered a terrible beating or you did not know what caused? >> if the body was found on a city street, you would think someone hurt him. >> reporter: but who? lovely was determined to find out. >> and she will have help. lovely forms of powerful bond with a radio host obsessed with her son's case. can they solve this mystery together? coming up -- she was completely shattered, she just said, this isn't my kid. something is wrong. >> i'm like, there is another mother asking the same questions i have. >> two mothers, united in a common cause. >> the mother said from the beginning, i just want answers. >> reporter: when "dateline" continues.
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found dead in the heart of the woods. police suspected he'd gotten lost any drunken days and succumbed to the cold. his mother thought something far more sinister had happened. especially after reading the report of her own pathologist. he believed pravin had suffered blunt force trauma to the head. blunt force trauma? >> yes. >> lovely wasn't alone in her
suspicions. >> we've had a situation in southern illinois that has been kind of disturbing. >> the same weekend, pravin's family and friends gathered for his funeral in chicago, was monica zukas on the radio 300 miles away, asking questions about his death. >> we have what we believe to be a healthy 19 year old, found dead in the woods. >> during her show, a mourner, who'd brain at pravin's open casket week, st. monica attests. >> i just got a text message from a dear friend of pravin. i went to pravin's the cetacean. his face looks like he was beat, bad. >> someone told lovely about's show. >> when i was listening to her, i'm like, boy, there is another mother that's asking the same questions that i have? >> the two women started talking on the phone every day. >> i just felt an automatic connection with her, and i thought, i can tell her anything.
>> lovely confided in monica how hurt she was by all the talk of pravin drinking. >> she was completely shattered. she just said, this isn't my kid. something is wrong. >> pravin's cousin actually had already given lovely his version of events. was pravin drinking that? night >> he was. >> was he drinking too much? >> no. >> and one of those reports of pravin's rowdy behavior. >> that's kind of how pravin is in general. >> friends and family have posted videos of his boisterous behavior. >> if you didn't know him -- >> yeah, he's kind of energetic. you know what i mean? >> but it was hard for lovely not to wonder if ashley was just telling her what she wanted to hear. until monica interviewed three
other students on her radio show who were at the party that night. >> this is our second show we've done on this particular issue. >> they explained that from what they had seen pravin hadn't been drinking all that much. >> he was standing talking to me like i would talk to anybody else. it was that like he was leaning on me, or couldn't talk or think street. >> so, if pravin listen that drunk, lovely wondered how had he ended up lost in the woods? police had found his body hundreds of yards from the road. you can see them try to retrace his steps in this video. lovely walked the route, to. >> what's it like? >> very thick and full of thorns and finds. you have to kind of -- it.
>> there was our breyer, too. fencing off some of the woods from the highway. and that's when they found a piece of his clothing? >> yes. this is where. >> a piece of pravin's t-shirts snagged on one of the barbs. so, the lore strand has a piece of its clothing? >> yes. >> lovely thought that the rough terrain and barbed wire media unlikely would pravin have wondered aimlessly in the whites and gotten lost. if he had been lost, why hadn't he just headed towards the cards? or used his phone to call for help? where with the phone? >> his phone was found just to his right side. >> lovely was more convinced than ever that pravin's death was the result of foul play. which is why she was so surprised when six weeks after pravin's death, the official autopsy report came to back and confirmed a police had originally said. pravin had died of hypothermia. the report did note some aberrations on his body, but said there was no significant trauma. so one report does that have so
much of needed a mandate. and the other has a bunch force trauma? >> yes, that's one of the times that i thought, i'm in the twilight zone. >> but there was something else in the autopsy report. something big. no alcohol had been found in pravin's blood. didn't that undermine the theory that had pravin gotten lost because he was drunk? it certainly caught the attention of the police pathologist who wrote, strangely, talks is negative. no reason for pravin's ef0 behavior and hiding in the woods. did that say something about your attitude towards the investigation, because it throughout your theory that he was wrong? >> well, you know, surprisingly he's not drunk. it didn't change in my mind, the direction of the investigation. but it was definitely a surprise that there was it more of an alcohol component. >> police had a theory though. maybe pravin had metabolized alcohol as he lay dying in the woods.
lovely didn't buy it. she went back to carbondale and staged a protest in the town square. >> we will not rest until we find the truth. >> it was the first time she and monica met in person. >> and we were just how gang and crying. hugging and crying. >> they started planning their next move. >> lovely said from the beginning, i don't want revenge. i just want answers. and if the answers are that somebody hurt my baby, i want justice. >> over the next few months, lovely and her supporters organized protests and press conferences demanding a new investigation. >> the are seeking justice at that every human being deserves. >> and a year past.
lovely went to pre-in the woods where pravin's body had been found, and she waited. and then suddenly -- >> he releases the report. he didn't call us. he gave it to the press. >> it turned out the local prosecutor had been investigating behind the scenes. he had consulted new pathologists and convened a drunk grand jury. in his report, he wrote the evidence showed pravin's death was an accident caused by intoxication, frigid weather and poor judgment. >> he said, was pravin drunk, intoxicated, highly intoxicated -- >> what did the science a? >> he didn't mention that the top screen was negative. >> lovely fell as the pravin's story was simply unheard. but monica had an idea about how to turn up the volume. >> monica, why did you invest so much of your personal time for a young man you didn't know? for a mother you didn't know? >> i know. sounds cheesy and it sounds cliché, but i'm a mother and there is nothing we won't do for our kids. >> lovely and monica doubled down on their search for answers and inch closer to the truth. coming up -- one possible answer to what happened that night. >> i was scared for my life. i didn't know what he was capable of. >> and another mother tells her side of the story. >> he immediately went his father and they went to the interviews. >> when "dateline" continues. lic asthma that can mean less oral steroids. not for sudden breathing problems. allergic reactions can occur. get help right away for swelling of face, mouth, tongue, or trouble breathing. infections that can cause shingles have occurred. don't stop steroids unless told by your doctor. tell your doctor if you have a parasitic infection.
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matter. the documents appeared to be related to biden's time as vice president and senator. the presidents lawyers and the white house counsel's office say they compete continue to cooperate with the doj. now back to dateline. >> reporter: welcome back to "dateline", i'm natalie morales. authorities concluded that pravin varughese's death was an accident, saying he was drunk, got lost in the woods and froze to death. but an autopsy found no alcohol in his blood and pravin's mother lovely was convinced there had to be another explanation. and police did not hear a key detail about the night pravin disappeared. here's dennis murphy with "at the edge of town". >> reporter: in the town where her son had lost his life, tiny, softspoken lovely was finding a voice. >> i am not trying to point fingers or assign blame. we just want answers.
>> reporter: the investigation appeared to be over, but lovely refused to give up. >> this is not over. >> no, this is not over. >> reporter: she filed a lawsuit against the city of carbondale and its police chief, accusing them of negligence. >> 12 days after the boy's family filed a lawsuit against you, you are fired? >> yes. it was actually over the weekend. >> so 30 years of law enforcement work goes up in smoke. >> yes, that was pretty much the end of my career. >> the city says his dismissal was a confidential matter with nothing to do with litigation. but the chief says that he was the scapegoat for city under siege by provides family. >> what did you think of the investigation until that point? >> what i did think was it was a good investigation. there were a lot of conscientious people working hard. >> reporter: there was one other person that lovely sued. remember, a driver gave pravin a ride that night. he was the last person to see
him alive. >> what did you learn about him? >> at face value, typical southern illinois guy. middle class family. >> reporter: his name was gaege bethune. his mom penny was also a nurse. >> gaege was a very laid back, good kid, a lot of dreams and hope. >> reporter: penny says gaege fell story for pravin walking by in the cold. >> he didn't have a coat, and asked him for a ride, and gaege says. yes penny says gaege had no idea that pravin was missing until he saw the story on tv. >> he immediately went to his father and then they took care of things. >> the following is a statement taken from gaege -- >> he told police that he was upset when he found that pravin was missing. he seemed eager to tell detectives everything he knew. >> and he came up to my window and said, hey, can you give me a ride. and so i did. it's cold outside, nobody needs to be walking in this cold.
>> reporter: after he got in his truck, he said gaege didn't seem to have a clue where he was going. he said they didn't really talk that much and drove around in circles. >> he was on the phone the majority of the time. trying to get cocaine off of somebody. >> gaege said he was nervous and wanted to get home. >> i was like, dude, i've told you to get out of my vehicle ten times now. and then we start to get aggressive. >> reporter: gaege said he immediately pulled over and that's when he said things got ugly. >> he got out the vehicle, swung on me. self-defense, i moved back. dodged it. and then i hit him. then we roll down the hill, he was on top, i was on top. punches were exchanged. i do know for sure, the first hit, it hit him square in the face. >> reporter: maybe that would explain the bruise on pravin's forehead. >> i was scared for my life. i didn't know what he was capable of. definitely not my race. i'm not used to being around that type of population. >> reporter: at that moment, he said the state trooper arrived into the scene and then pravin
dashed into the woods. really? it was something easy for police to verify. you can see gaege walking into the shot and the trooper looking into the woods with his flashlight. the trooper told gaege to head on home. police hadn't told the family about the trooper. but monica after hearing a tip. >> it just haunts me because i think my brother could have been alive at that time. >> reporter: was monica getting tips about that roadside fight to. >> people are talking over here, they are saying that this
driver beat that kate up. >> and i pravin's thought they had proof that i pravin was scared. afraid had been on the phone with him. >> it just sounded like someone was running and he said don't hang up, she said. >> reporter: don't hang up? could that have been a call for help? i was lovely at her wits'end, imagining her sons last hours in the woods, and frustrated that the case was going nowhere. then she got a surprising break, because the prosecutor did something she never expected. he asked the judge to appoint a special prosecutor to take a fresh look at the case. >> reporter: is this credit to the guy? i know you are not fond of him. but that he did this thing? >> i guess he was -- i believe it's god pushing him to do that. because the truth still need to come out. >> reporter: lovely dropped her lawsuit against the city and the police chief. and waited to see what would happen. but half a year went by. >> i said, that's it, we are
going to a city council meeting and i'm going to get eight by ten pictures of pravin's and put it in their face. >> comments by citizens? yes ma'am? >> i took a six hour train drive to be here today and i request your kind attention to me. >> she didn't damned them to hell, she didn't custom out, she didn't threaten. she said, please, i want answers. common courtesy. >> reporter: then it was monica 's turned. >> i want to show you a few images of what we are being told here are not injuries. >> she handed out photos of pravin's injuries. >> one lady excuse yourself, another guy was crying. >> reporter: weeks later, a copy of the case file was handed over by city officials. monika and lovely couldn't believe what they found inside. >> reporter: coming up -- >> it's a relief. >> reporter: news welcomed by one mother that sounds another. >> i fell to pieces.
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before she goes to bed. do you worry about losing your mother in the grief of all of this? she so consumed by it? do you think it will devour her? >> no, because that's my brother and i want anything and everything done for him to get justice. so, we have to fight. >> for lovely, that no longer meant protests or speeches, it meant hours studying the police case file. monika traveled to chicago to help her. >> we got dry erase boards. we want to know which officers well were here, who sue what's, does it match with his. we were pretty awesome. >> and visitors were not welcome? >> don't touch our stuff. >> they started to question just how cooperative had gaege really been with the police. remember, he set out badly he felt about pravin's death. >> made me sick to my stomach that boy was -- >> but it turns out gaege hadn't come forward to the cops of his own accord. it was only after his cousin told police about him that he went to see them. >> if he was in a fight with pravin and it was completely innocent, why would he have called immediately and. said oh my gosh, i had a fight with a guy. let me show you were happen. >> and here's what they learned from the case file. had gaege a top to law
enforcement once or twice. he'd talk to them three times. and each story was slightly different. >> we feel that you weren't completely honest with us. >> his first story was to the state trooper. told gaege him he picked up a black hitchhiker walking the long route 13. he said the hitchhiker try to rob him and then ran off into the woods. and a follow-up interview, gaege admitted to the cups that that was a lie. >> now did the kid try to rob me. no? >> and said there is something else he lied to the cops about. before bumping into pravin he'd been at a party trying to store score some. drugs >> i was just there -- >> but he said pravin was the one looking for cocaine. >> the things that we are seeing in here, speechless. >> as lovely and monica talked about the case live on facebook, gaege's mom, penny, watched with dread. >> i felt guilty. >> why would you feel guilty? >> because i didn't do enough to try to save my son. maybe? i didn't speak out enough. maybe i should have? >> penny said her son was no angel. she knew that he drinks sometimes. i don't hear you -- you're not saying you're never going to hear a bad thing about my kid. >> i'm a realistic mother.
no child is perfect. >> so, there could've been a little beer in the car? >> i wouldn't be shocked. you know? >> gaege she, says, we just like any other teenager. that explained his life to police, to. >> he thought he was going to get in trouble for the drinking and driving. >> the different stories he told the authorities? >> exactly. we've all been 19. whether or not you've been in trouble or not or in that situation, you've fibbed about something. in one way or another. >> penny said gaege had been honest when it mattered. he told that state trooper pravin was in the woods. penny wondered why that uber had gone to look for him. so you put some blame on the officer? >> i put most of the blame on the officer. >> why didn't he look for the kids in the woods? >> right, like he had been cold. >> gaege whatever -- his mother says he was not responsible for pravin dying in the woods. >> if he had done nothing wrong besides got into a scuffle. gave a kid a right. >> the special prosecutor
thought differently. in july 2017, three years after pravin's body had been found, was gaege charged with two counts of felony murder. the special prosecutor had a new theory. check out these tweets that appeared to have been posted by gaege. the prosecutors believe that gaege, using a racial epithet, was bragging about hustling people of color. that's what he thought had gaege done to pravin. not just beaten him, robbed him. under illinois law, if the special prosecutor could prove pravin died as a result of gaege's blows, or a possible robbery, even if he didn't mean to kill him, could gaege be found guilty of felony murder. >> it's actually relief. it's a piece of my. >> after the charges, lovely felt as though she could breathe for the first time since pravin's death. for penny, it was agony. what do you do? >> i fall to pieces, at first. and then i gather myself up and i hug him, and i tell him everything is going to be okay. >> derek, gauges gaege best's friend, said he was terrified. since pravin's deaf, gaege i've become a father to the little girl. >> i've never seen the dude cry until the day before he had to go to trial. i mean, it's a guy that is scared for his life. you? no >> pravin had died in the most bitter of winter cold. it was blazing summer when his
family and gaege's family stepped foot into the jackson county courthouse. did you ever catch eyes with pravin's mom. >> i tried. i wanted her to feel my sympathy. >> but it didn't happen? >> no, because by that point, they wanted my son to pay. >> the prosecutor's case was this -- gaege's blows, inflicted during a robbery, has sent pravin fleeing into the woods where disoriented from his injuries, he died in the bitter cold. and the prosecutor argued, you didn't have to look further than gaege's lies too police to see a guilty man trying to cover his tracks. the >> prosecutor pointed out the very first question they asked him, other than his name, he answered with a life. >>'s defense attorney, michael web, came back swinging. arguing pravin's death was a tragedy, but one of his own making. >> the problem with pravin that that was he was poorly dressed for the weather. all he had was a teacher and a pair of jeans. on >> the frosted?
vulnerable to hypothermia. but what about those negative talks results? >> how do you reconcile the scientific -- the kid was not wrecked. >> because he lived for at least three or four hours after he went into the woods. >> so, the bodies metabolizing. >> absolutely. >> and yet, how drunk could pravin have been if he made that phone call to his friend telling her don't hang up. he's having a sensible phone conversation with that friend in chicago. he's able to dial his phone -- >> well, you're assuming that this lady was on speed all as she was. >> the defense said the prosecution's case added up to a bunch of nothing. there was no proof of beating and zero evidence of a robbery. he said those tweets were posted almost a year before pravin's death. that they were crude and stupid, but that's all they were. words and didn't prove
anything. they hadn't even been allowed into trial by the judge. lots more -- >> when pravin was found he had his wallet on him. he had $24 in cash in his wallet. >> then the defense attorney made a bold move. he called gaege to the stand. it didn't go well. >> gaege is, first day of prime cross-examination was. off it was tough. >> shocked. miracle. dream come true. >> because gaege did something monica had never imagined. he admitted punching pravin and demonstrated to the jurors just how he'd done. >> lovely said, he's said it. he finally said. i hit him right here. and she's like, that's all i need. >> lovely had fought for years to get her son's case heard inside a courtroom. after nine days of testimony, it was in the hands of the jury. but what happens next surprised everyone. >> coming up -- >> the jury comes in, several of the jurors were visibly shaking. like they have been crying. >> a verdict. >> i could hear crying from the other side.
i can hear crying from our side. i was numb. >> but maybe not an end. >> i've been doing this over 30 years. it was the first time i've ever had this happen. >> when "dateline" continues. ve moderate to severe crohn's disease. now, there's skyrizi. ♪ things are looking up ♪ ♪ i've got symptom relief ♪ ♪ control of my crohn's means everything to me. ♪ ♪ ♪ control is everything to me. ♪ feel significant symptom relief with skyrizi, including less abdominal pain and fewer bowel movements at 4 weeks. skyrizi is the first and only il-23 inhibitor for crohn's that can deliver both clinical remission and endoscopic improvement. the majority of people on skyrizi achieved long lasting remission at 1 year. serious allergic reactions and an increased risk of infections or a lower ability to fight them may occur.
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>> welcome back. accused murder gaege bethune testified that he punched pravin varughese on the night that teenager went missing. gaege's lawyer argued that the injuries his client inflicted were not life threatening and pravin later froze to death due to his own poor judgment. the jury was about to do liberal deliver its verdict. then a surprise that would leave the courtroom stand. here's dennis murphy with the conclusion of "at the edge of town". >> lovely and her family waited patiently inside the jackson county courthouse as a jury decided whether to find gaege bethune guilty of their son's murder. one hour turned into two. then six. then seven hours of deliberation. >> it was about 10:15, we were callback. the jury comes in. several of the jurors were visibly shaking and looked like
they had been crying. >> and we sat down, i just touched my sense picture and i always tell him what's going on. and i hear him say, in my heart, mommy, we've got it. >> the jury didn't believe that prosecutors theory that a robbery was behind pravin's death. so, he was acquitted on that count. that they did believe gaege's blows had caused pravin's death. and for that, they convicted him a felony murder. >> i remember seeing my son hit his hand on the table. and then he started throwing up. he yelled, mom. as he was throwing up. and all i was wanted to do is get to him. i just wanted to hold him. and i wasn't allowed to. even touch him. >> i could hear crying from the other side. i could hear crying from our
side. i was numb. i was thankful. i was devastated. nobody wins. >> is it justice? was justice done? >> yes. yes. >> gaege with lead away. his sentencing set for a later date. he faced 20 to 60 years in prison. his defense attorney filed a motion for a new trial, that judge rejected it. >> i called up i said, look, i'm telling you, something is wrong here. >> chicago defense attorney steve greenberg believed the whole case had been an outrage from the get-go. and offered to work for the bethune family. >> when we start letting someone for a fistfight get convicted of murder, that's a real problem. >> he got the judge to let him file another motion, asking for a new trial. arguing among other things, that the way prosecutors had charged gaege was flawed. >> where the indictment was phrased, the jury didn't have to find that gaege ever intended to cause bodily harm.
they just had to find that he touched the guy. ♪ ♪ ♪ >> gaege had been sitting in jail, awaiting his sentencing. penny says it was hard to see him there, but harder still was explaining to his daughter why he was in coming home. he told his daughter why he was at work? >> i absolutely did. >> that would be back? >> yes, she's three. you can't explain something like that to her. >> finally, the day of sentencing arrived. lovely prayed as she made her way to carbondale one more time. driving the six hours from chicago, pass the woods where her son had died. at the court has, she sat in her usual spot. but something seemed odd here. gaege listen in a jumpsuit. >> and i asked the prosecutor, why is he in street clothes? where are his handcuffs? and he said, i don't know. i have to figure out. >> then she says, the judge issued a stern warning to the two families. >> i want to warn you, one side of this courtroom is going to be very upset. if any of you cannot handle
this, you need to leave the room right now. >> lovely assumed he meant gaege's family, but she was wrong. >> everybody in the courtroom was shocked. >> so, i've been doing this over 30 years and it was the first time i've ever had this happen. >> rather than sentencing gaege, the judge threw out the verdict and ordered a new trial. he ruled that the evidence had been sufficient to convict gaege, but the wording in the indictment might have confuse the jurors. so, gaege was a free man, for now. >> when i saw him walk out, and i got to put my arms around him and hold him, it was the most amazing feeling in the world. >> gaege's best friend says gaege couldn't wait to be reunited with his daughter. >> he just has these big old eyes, just jump straight into his arms. and it's one of those hallmark movie kind of things. >> not for lovely. she couldn't believe what had happened. >> i was shock. disgusted. and i felt like, how can you
trust in the justice system anymore? a jury of 12 members found this man guilty and the judge just turned around and threw it away with no reason. ♪ ♪ ♪ >> the special prosecutor promised to fight another day. >> there's never question in my mind that we proved the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. and we're absolutely going to retry this. case. >> but a few months later, he dropped the charges against gaege. although he said, he's keeping all options on the table. there is no statute of limitations on felony murder charges. but when we contacted him two years later, the special prosecutor had not re-filed any charges. if a gaege stop by tonight by trooper for a broken taillight, what will they pull up about him? what the trooper learn about him on the computer? >> the learned that he was charged with murder. >> that hasn't gone away? >> it will never go away. >> lovely ended up settling her lawsuit against out of court. but she says she really wants is something she thinks you'll
never give her, an apology. as for her boy, her pravin -- >> i miss hearing him call me. mommy -- yeah, i miss hearing his footsteps. >> but she thinks he would have been proud of her. >> i believe it was pravin's spirit who brought us all this week. he wanted us to know what happened to him and who did this to him. and we got it. we know who did this to pravin. that's all i needed to know. ♪ ♪ ♪ >> that's all for this edition of "dateline". i'm natalie morales. thank you for watching. ♪ ♪ ♪ >> i'm natalie morales and this is dateline. ♪ ♪ ♪ >> what's going on?