Man sought for questioning in Antioch deaths arrested in North Dakota
BY Frank Abderholden email@example.com | @abderholden November 3, 2013 10:30PM
Antioch Deputy Chief John Laskowski (left) and Police Chief Craig Somerville announce the arrest of Billy Varner in the suspicious death of his mother and girlfriend Sunday evening, Nov. 3. | Submitted photo
Updated: November 4, 2013 1:40PM
Nearly 1,000 miles away from Antioch where police wanted to talk to him about the suspicious deaths of his mother and girlfriend and just over an hour from the Canadian border, Billy Varner went to a church in Williston, North Dakota.
But instead of praying at St. Joseph, the only Catholic Church in the 18,500-resident town, Varner, 54, decided to rob the church during its 5 p.m. Saturday evening mass. “He walked in with a shotgun during the mass,” said Police Chief Craig Somerville. It didn’t go so well.
“The parishioners in the church chased him out and gave a good description,” said Somerville at a press conference Sunday evening, some were even following the suspect. “The suspect fled the scene and several church goers followed and it ended without incident,” he said.
Williams County Sheriff’s officers captured Varner without incident, and when his name was run through the National Database, it hit on the warrant in Lake County for felony possession of a stolen vehicle and a $500,000 bond.
Lake County Major Crime Task Force officers went to the area in North Dakota, in the northwest corner of the state, to talk to Varner and begin the process of extradition proceedings. Varner could still fight extradition. He will also face charges in that state.
Varner is wanted for questioning in connection with the deaths of two women who were found Oct. 28 at 4 p.m. after police were called to their basement apartment at 1221 Main St. in Antioch. His mother, 82-year-old Dorothy Varner, and 61-year-old Peggy A. Henderson, who had a relationship with Varner, were found inside. One woman in one room and the other in another room.
Police and the Lake County Corner’s Office have not released how the women died and continue to call it a “suspicious death.”
Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd said investigators were told Henderson had a history of identity theft, so police are uncertain if that was her real name. She has no family in the area, he said, a positive identification was made Friday through a fingerprint. In March 2009, Henderson was found guilty of identity theft and spent 90 days in the Lake County Jail, according to court records.
The tan Chevrolet conversion van belongs to another family member, but not his mother.
Somerville said the trail had grown cold, “but we were still confident he would turn up. He had a unique vehicle and we had the license plate and no indication he had abandoned it,” he said.
Somerville thanked all the police departments that cooperated in the week-long investigation.
“The law enforcement community extends far beyond the scene of the crime,” he said. “This case exemplifies the importance of networking and the sharing of resources among the agencies to effect an arrest,” he said.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of the victims in this case. The impact on those who lose their loved ones in such a tragedy goes on for a lifetime,” he said