(STMW) — In a hearing that lasted less than 15 minutes Monday morning, a north suburban man pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and will likely spend the rest of his life in prison for the deaths of his wife and mother.
Billy Varner, of Antioch, killed his wife with a machete and suffocated his mother last October, the Lake County News-Sun is reporting.
Under a negotiated plea, Varner, who is 55 years old, was sentenced to 45 years in prison, a sentence that must be served in full. If he lives long enough to be released and placed on parole, he would be either 99 or 100 years old, depending on the exact credit he is given for time spent in Lake County Jail.
Asked by Judge Mark Levitt whether he wanted to make a statement, Varner responded that “I’m sorry.”
Varner, who has an eighth-grade education and said he is dyslexic, repeatedly told the judge that he understood terms of the plea and that he voluntarily signed a waiver of trial form.
“Obviously, it’s effectively a life sentence,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Ari Fisz, who prosecuted the case with Assistant State’s Attorney Matt DeMartini.
Fisz said after the verdict that the families of the victims and all of the police departments involved in the double homicide investigation “felt it was a just disposition.”
Varner was represented by defense attorneys John Bailey and Thomas Meyers. Bailey declined to comment on the resolution of the case.
Varner was charged with 33 counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of his wife, Peggy Henderson, 61, and his mother, Dorothy Varner, 82, and two counts of attempting to conceal a homicide.
Under the agreement, he pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder and the remaining counts against him were dropped. He faced up to natural life in prison if the case would have gone to trial.
On Oct. 26, 2013, Varner killed his wife with a machete in her bedroom in an Antioch apartment the two shared. He then suffocated his mother two days later, according to authorities.
Police said he told investigators he killed his wife because she was suffering from a chronic disease, and killed his mother after he feared she was becoming suspicious about his wife’s death.
After the women were killed, police said Varner stole his brother’s van and drove to North Dakota, where he was arrested after he burst into a Catholic mass and robbed parishioners at gunpoint.
He was returned to Lake County following his arrest, and, deemed a flight risk, has been held in Lake County Jail without bail. He is expected to be transferred to an Illinois Department of Corrections facility in the near future.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)