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updated: 12/5/2013 1:18 PM

Varner pleads not guilty in Antioch murder case

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  • Billy Varner

      Billy Varner

 
 

A 54-year-old Antioch man accused of killing his wife and mother in the apartment the three shared pleaded not guilty to numerous counts of murder in Lake County court Thursday.

Billy Varner remains held in jail without bond for using a machete to kill his wife, Peggy Henderson, 61, and later suffocating his 82-year-old mother, Dorothy Varner, authorities said.

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Varner faces life in prison if convicted on the 33 counts of murder he is charged with, authorities said. He also faces two counts of attempting to conceal the homicide of his mother and wife.

The killings began Oct. 26 when he attacked Henderson with a machete after she went to lay down in her bedroom in the two-bedroom apartment in the 1200 block of Main Street after complaining of a headache, authorities said.

The first blow nearly decapitated her, authorities said, and a second swing took off portions of her fingers and hands.

Varner also used a knife to repeatedly stab Henderson in the chest, authorities said, before covering her with a blanket and leaving her in the bedroom.

Two days later, Varner placed a plastic bag over his mother's head and used a towel to suffocate her in the living room of the apartment, authorities said. Varner told authorities during interrogation that he killed her after she grew suspicious that Henderson was dead in the apartment.

Authorities said Varner also admitted to Henderson's murder, claiming he attacked her because he thought she was suffering.

After killing his mother, Varner stole his brother's van and fled the state, authorities said. He was captured Nov. 2 in North Dakota after authorities say he tried to rob a Catholic church during Mass while armed with a shotgun.

Varner waived extradition from North Dakota and ordered held without bond Nov. 5. His trial has been set for March 3. He is due back in court for a pretrial hearing Jan. 16.

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