Antioch man apologizes, pleads guilty to killing wife, mother

  • Billy Varner

    Billy Varner

Updated 10/20/2014 1:57 PM

An Antioch man apologized Monday for savagely killing his wife with a machete and suffocating his mother in their garden apartment nearly one year ago.

Billy Varner, 55, was sentenced to 45 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of first-degree murder in front of Lake County Judge Mark Levitt.


As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped an additional 32 counts of murder and two counts of attempting to conceal a homicide that were filed against Varner.

He is required to serve the entire sentence before being eligible for parole.

"That I am sorry," Varner said to Levitt after being asked if he'd like to make a statement. Varner also said he suffered from dyslexia, but was not on any medication for mental health issues.

Should Varner complete the sentence in prison, he would be required to serve an additional 3 years on probation.

"This is effectively a life sentence for him," Assistant State's Attorney Ari Fisz said after the plea deal. "We spoke with the families and the relevant police departments about (the plea) and everyone felt it was a just disposition."

Varner could have been sentenced to up to life in prison if found guilty at trial, authorities said.

Varner, of the 1200 block of Main Street, was charged with killing his wife, Peggy Henderson, 61, and suffocating his 82-year-old mother, Dorothy Varner, during a three-day period beginning Oct. 26. 2013.

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Authorities said Varner attacked Henderson with a machete and a knife after she went to bed complaining of a migraine headache. Varner later told police he attacked her to ease her suffering, authorities said.

Authorities said Varner initially attacked Henderson with the machete, but then used the knife to repeatedly stab her in the chest.

Varner covered the body with a blanket after the attack, then left the body behind a closed door in the bedroom they shared, authorities said.

Two days later, Varner suffocated Dorothy Varner with a plastic bag and a towel in the living room of the apartment, authorities said. He attacked his mother when she became suspicious about Henderson, authorities said.

After killing his mother, Varner stole a van from his brother and fled the state, authorities said. He was captured about a week later in North Dakota while trying to rob a Catholic church with a shotgun, authorities said.

Defense attorney John Bailey did not comment after the hearing.

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