Billy Varner, Ill. man charged with killing wife, mother and robbing a church at gunpoint, held without bail

Billy Varner, 54, charged with killing wife and mother CBS Chicago

(CBS/AP) WAUKEGAN, Ill. - A northern Illinois man who went on an alleged crime spree is being held without bond for the slayings of his wife and mother.

Billy Varner, 54, appeared in Lake County court Tuesday after being extradited from North Dakota, where he'd been arrested after authorities there say he robbed a church at gunpoint during a weekend Mass.

The Antioch man has also been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of his wife, Peggy Henderson, and his mother, Dorothy Varner. Their bodies were discovered Oct. 28.

According to CBS Chicago, prosecutors say on the day Varner allegedly killed his wife, Oct. 26, she had laid down complaining about a headache, and that after hearing her wheezing and thinking she was suffering, he claims he attacked her with a machete to end her misery.

Varner allegedly struck Henderson so hard with the first swing that he almost took her head off. The woman reportedly tried to fight back but Varner continued attacking her, cutting her fingers off and nearly severing her wrist. He then allegedly stabbed her in the chest until she died.

Two days later, worried that his mother might become suspicious, prosecutors say Varner  suffocated her with a plastic bag and a towel.

Varner reportedly covered both bodies in towels and stole his brother's van to flee the state. His reportedly planned to drive to Canada but on the way he broke into a car and stole money and a shotgun from the vehicle.

The suspect then drove to a small town in North Dakota, allegedly walked into a Saturday church mass, brandished the shotgun and robbed about three dozen people, according to the station.

Williams County sheriff's officers reportedly caught Varner shortly after the robbery. When they searched his car, they say they found a machete believed to be one he used to kill his wife and a plastic bag believed to be the one he used to kill his mother. He was also wearing a bloody white shirt, thought to be the one he was wearing when he killed his wife, according to prosecutors.

Upon his arrest, police reportedly said Varner confessed to both murders.

Complete coverage of Billy Varner's case on Crimesider