Wanted Antioch man captured in North Dakota
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The hunt is over for an Antioch man wanted for questioning in connection with the suspicious deaths of his wife and mother nearly one week ago.
Antioch Police Chief Craig Somerville said Billy Varner, 54, was arrested by the Williams County (N.D.) Sheriff's Office Saturday after authorities say he used a shotgun to rob a church in Williston, N.D.
Immediately after learning of the arrest, members of the Lake County Task Force traveled to North Dakota to speak with Varner, authorities said.
Somerville said Williams County deputies responded to a call Saturday afternoon that a man armed with a shotgun committed a robbery during Mass at a Catholic church. The suspect fled the church but was followed by several parishioners, Somerville said. It is unclear exactly what was stolen from the church, but no one was injured in the robbery, he added.
Sheriff's police intercepted the suspect's vehicle moments after the robbery, and they took Varner into custody without incident, Somerville said.
After Varner's arrest, Williams County deputies ran his identity through a national database, Somerville said, where an active warrant was discovered for a car theft in Illinois. The warrant also told deputies in North Dakota that Varner was wanted for questioning in the "suspicious deaths" of two women earlier this week in Antioch, Somerville said.
He said North Dakota authorities contacted Antioch Police to inform them they had Varner in custody.
"It's obvious he didn't want to be here," Somerville said when asked why Varner was in North Dakota. "He clearly wanted to put some distance between here and him."
Williston, a town of about 18,500 near the Missouri River, is located in the northwest corner of North Dakota, Somerville said, about 25 miles east of the Montana border and 50 miles south of Canada.
George Filenko, chief of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, said late Sunday detectives with the task force were questioning Varner in North Dakota. He added Varner has not yet been charged with a crime in North Dakota.
Police have said Varner was wanted for questioning because he may be the last person to have seen 61-year-old Peggy Henderson and 82-year-old Dorothy Varner alive. The two women were discovered dead about 4 p.m. Oct. 28 following a well-being check in an apartment they shared with Billy Varner on the 1200 block of Main Street, Somerville said.
Dorothy Varner was Billy Varner's mother, authorities confirmed, and Henderson was Billy Varner's wife. Somerville said the causes of death for both Henderson and Dorothy Varner remain under investigation.
After the discovery last Monday, police issued a warrant for Billy Varner's arrest because he took a Chevy conversion van that was owned by another family member. That van was recovered at the time of Varner's capture in North Dakota, Somerville said.
"First and foremost, our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of the victims in this case," he said. "We salute all who participated in this effort to take a dangerous subject off the streets."
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