Billy E. Varner

A man wanted in connection with two deaths in Antioch, Ill. was arrested after attempting to rob a Ray church during mass Saturday night.

Billy E. Varner, 54, was arrested by the Williams County Sheriff’s Office after walking into St. Michael church in Ray during a 5 p.m. mass Saturday with a shotgun.

Varner walked into the church and demanded all the money. After receiving the money, he fled the church in a motor vehicle, which was later recovered by deputies traveling south on Highway 2, 13 miles from Williston.

Varner faces multiple charges according to a release from the Williams County Sheriff's Office.

In a news conference Sunday night, Antioch Police Chief Craig Somerville said Varner’s robbery attempt didn’t go very well though, as parishioners chased the man out of the church, followed him and provided a solid description leading to his arrest. He is currently in custody at the Williams County Jail.

“The suspect fled the scene and several church goers followed and it ended without incident,” he said.

Varner was wanted in Illinois in connection with the death of his 82-year-old mother and a 61-year-old woman he also lived with, both were found dead on Oct. 28.

The suspect was wanted for questioning and is being held on a warrant realted to a stolen van, according to Antioch police.

Police have not said how the two women died and said Varner may have been the last one to see them alive.

The Williams County Sheriff’s Office has been working with authorities from Illinois in regards to their investigation into Varner

“The law enforcement community extends far beyond the scene of the crime,” Sommerville said. “This case exemplifies the importance of networking and the sharing of resources among the agencies to effect an arrest.”

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