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updated: 1/16/2014 3:11 PM

Antioch double murder trial delayed, DNA request granted

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  • Billy Varner

    Billy Varner


The trial for a 54-year-old Antioch man accused of brutally killing his wife and mother in October at the apartment the three shared has been delayed until May 27.

However, prosecutors were given permission by Judge John T. Phillips to take a DNA sample from Billy Varner in Lake County court Thursday morning.

Varner, of the 1200 block of Main Street, 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.

Varner faces life in prison if convicted on the 33 counts of murder charges he faces.

Assistant State's Attorney Ari Fisz said the DNA swab is needed by forensic technicians to separate the DNA samples found in the apartment.

"The crime lab is testing evidence that was discovered in several locations of the apartment," Fisz said. "We need to determine a DNA standard to test against that evidence."

Authorities said the killings began Oct. 26 when Varner attacked Henderson with a machete after she went to bed.

Authorities said Henderson was complaining of a headache when she went to lay down.

After his arrest, Varner told police he killed Henderson to ease her suffering.

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

Varner used a knife to repeatedly stab her in the chest, authorities said, before covering her with a blanket and leaving her body behind a closed door in the bedroom.

Two days later, Varner placed a plastic bag over Dorothy Varner's head and used a towel to suffocate her in the living room of the apartment, authorities said.

Varner told authorities during questioning he killed the mother after she grew suspicious of Henderson's murder.

Varner stole a van and fled the state, authorities said. He was captured about a week later in North Dakota after authorities say he tried to rob a Catholic church while armed with a shotgun.

Varner's trial was initially set for March 3. His next court date is Feb. 25.

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