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Illinois man who robbed Ray church at gunpoint pleads not guilty in 2 killings

WAUKEGAN, Ill. — A northern Illinois man has pleaded not guilty in the slayings of his wife and mother.

Fifty-four-year-old Billy Varner appeared in Lake County court Thursday. The Antioch man is charged with first-degree murder for the deaths of his wife, Peggy Henderson, and his mother, Dorothy Varner. Their bodies were discovered Oct. 28. Prosecutors say Henderson was nearly decapitated with a machete. They say Dorothy Varner was suffocated two days later after she became suspicious.

Varner was extradited from North Dakota where he was arrested after authorities there said he robbed a church in Ray at gunpoint during Mass.

He faces 33 counts of murder and two counts of attempting to conceal a homicide.

Varner remains jailed without bond. He's next due in court Jan. 16 and his trial is scheduled for March.