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No Bail For Man Charged In Vicious Slayings Of Wife, Mother

Billy Varner (Lake County Jail booking photo)

Billy Varner (Lake County Jail booking photo)

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WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS) – An Antioch man was ordered held without bond Tuesday morning, accused of brutally killing his wife and mother in the apartment they all shared, then fleeing the state.

Billy Varner, 54, had been arrested in North Dakota over the weekend, after robbing a church with a shotgun. He was returned to Illinois on Monday to face four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his wife, Peggy Henderson, and his mother, Dorothy Varner. The three lived together in north suburban Antioch, along with Varner’s brother, according to prosecutors.

CBS 2’s Chris Martinez reports, in court Tuesday, Lake County prosecutors said Varner nearly decapitated his wife with a machete on Oct. 26. Two days later, he suffocated his mother with a plastic bag and a towel, prosecutors said.

A Lake County judge denied Varner bail after hearing the grisly details of the murders.

According to prosecutors, on the day Varner allegedly killed his wife, she had laid down while suffering a headache, and Varner heard her wheezing. Thinking she was suffering, Varner allegedly wanted to put his wife out of her misery, and attacked her with a machete.

Varner allegedly struck Henderson so hard with his first swing, he almost took her head off. However, she still managed to try to fight back, and he continued slashing and stabbing her, cutting off her fingers, and nearly severing her wrist. He then stabbed her in the chest until she died, prosecutors said.

Varner allegedly told his family Henderson was sick, and they shouldn’t go into the bedroom. Two days later, worried his mother had become suspicious, he allegedly used a plastic bag and a towel to suffocate his mother.

He covered both bodies in towels, stole his brother’s van, and fled the state. Prosecutors said Varner’s brother later discovered the bodies, after calling Varner to ask why he’d taken the van.

Prosecutors said Varner planned to drive to Canada, but somewhere between Antioch and North Dakota, he broke into a car, and stole money and a shotgun. When he arrived in the small town of Ray, N.D., he allegedly walked into St. Michael’s Catholic Church during Sunday mass, brandished the shotgun, and robbed approximately three dozen parishioners of money.

Williams County Sheriff’s officers soon caught Varner, and found the van he’d stolen from his brother. Inside, they found the machete he used to kill his wife, and the plastic bag he’d used to kill his mother. Prosecutors also said Varner was wearing the bloody shirt he had been wearing when he killed his wife.

After he was arrested, Varner allegedly confessed to both murders.