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updated: 11/4/2013 1:19 PM

Antioch man faces murder charge in deaths of wife, mother

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  • Video: Varner arrest press conference

  • Billy Varner of Antioch in a Williams County, N.D. police mug shot. He was formally charged Monday with first-degree murder in the deaths of his wife and mother.

      Billy Varner of Antioch in a Williams County, N.D. police mug shot. He was formally charged Monday with first-degree murder in the deaths of his wife and mother.
    Photo Courtesy of the Williston Herald

 
 

A 54-year-old Antioch man faces four counts of first-degree murder in the suspicious deaths of his mother and wife one week ago, authorities said Monday.

Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim said Billy Varner was charged early Monday with two counts of first-degree murder for the death of Dorothy Varner, 81, and two more counts in the death of Peggy Henderson, 62.

Nerheim said he is prevented from further discussing details of the case until Varner appears in Lake County bond court Tuesday morning.

George Filenko, chief of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, said Varner remains in custody and is being transported back to Illinois after waiving formal extradition proceedings in North Dakota early Monday.

"He's been cooperative from the minute we started speaking with him," Filenko said.

Varner was taken into custody by Williams County (N.D.) Sheriff's deputies Saturday afternoon after they say tried to rob a Catholic church in Williston, N.D., authorities said.

Antioch Police Chief Craig Somerville said Varner entered the church during a Saturday afternoon Mass armed with a shotgun. It's unclear exactly what was stolen from the church, but Somerville said no one was injured in the holdup.

Varner fled the church after the robbery, but was followed by several parishioners. Sheriff's police nabbed the Antioch man soon after and took him into custody without incident, Somerville said.

After his arrest, Williams County deputies ran Varner's identity through a national database, which revealed an active warrant for a car theft in Illinois. The warrant also told deputies that Varner was wanted for questioning in the "suspicious deaths," Somerville said.

A manhunt was on for Varner since last Monday after his mother, Dorothy, and his wife, Henderson, were discovered dead about 4 p.m. in the Main Street apartment the three shared, authorities said.

Somerville said the causes of death for Henderson and Dorothy Varner remain under investigation.

Filenko has said previously Varner was wanted because he may have been the last person to see his wife and mother alive.

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