CHICAGO (MCT) — A Chicago Bears fan who traveled from Lake County, Ill., to see the team play in Jacksonville, Fla., died at the hands of an “enraged” husband who saw his wife talking to the other man at a restaurant the night before the game, police said.
As the men sat on a bench near the entrance of an Irish-themed restaurant and bar, eyewitnesses saw Matthew Hinson, 27, stand up, draw a “little pocket knife” and slice the throat of 42-year-old William Christopher Pettry of Lake Villa, Ill., said Lt. Rob Schoonover of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
“For some reason, he became jealous, enraged, whatever you want to call it,” Schoonover said. “(Hinson) calmly and basically cold-bloodedly cut the victim’s throat and calmly walked out of the restaurant.”
Pettry’s mother, Carylin Hedstrom of Chicago, woke up to a phone call early Sunday morning from her son’s wife. The last time she saw her son was Friday before his flight to Florida, when he helped sort through the belongings of his stepfather, who died of lung cancer on Sept. 18.
“I haven’t cleaned up on my other situation,” Hedstrom said. “It hasn’t been easy.”
Family and friends on Monday were still trying to make sense of the death of a man they remembered as gregarious and peaceable. As the owner of a construction and remodeling company, Pettry — known to friends and family as Chris — spent most of his time working or with his wife and three school-age children, relatives said, so the trip was a rare treat.
Pettry and his traveling companion were “like brothers,” said Barbara Viverito of Huntley, Ill., the companion’s mother. The trip was meant to be a good time for two men who had known each other since kindergarten, she said.
“It didn’t have to mean anything more than that,” she said.
The two spent Saturday night at Fionn MacCool’s, an Irish-themed restaurant and bar in a development along the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville, near the hotel where both the men and the Bears players were staying. A classic rock band was playing covers, and revelers in Bears gear were eating and drinking, said restaurant general manager Paul Glaser.
Early Sunday morning, Pettry went to use the bathroom and said he would return with more drinks, said his cousin, Quincy Asbury Jr., a River Grove, Ill., police officer who had spoken with Pettry’s traveling companion. Pettry didn’t come back, Asbury said.
Hinson arrived at the bar to find his wife talking to Pettry, Schoonover said. After Pettry’s throat was cut, patrons — including nurses who had been in the restaurant — tried to stop the bleeding and save his life, Glaser said.
Pettry’s family members on Monday puzzled over his swift, incompletely explained death.
“How do you get up and go to the washroom ... and end up with your throat cut?” Asbury asked. “To me, that’s borderline insanity. It’s just a waste. A total waste.”
After cutting Pettry, Hinson walked to his truck and drove off, but police quickly pulled him over and found the knife, Schoonover said. He resisted arrest, and police took him to the ground, Schoonover said, explaining the scrapes and bruises on the left side of Hinson face in his mug shot.
Hinson admitted that he stabbed Pettry but did not explain why, Schoonover said.
A search of Florida arrest and court records only turned up traffic-related offenses. Hinson pleaded no contest to a charge of driving under the influence in the Jacksonville area in June 2006, according to court records from Clay County.
Schoonover said Pettry and Hinson did not trade punches before the cutting, and the victim’s relatives said they wouldn’t expect him to get in a bar fight.
“He wouldn’t ... allow himself to get in a confrontation,” said his aunt, Lillie Asbury.
In the game Pettry had hoped to see, the Bears went on to beat the faltering Jaguars 41-3. At a news conference Monday, Bears coach Lovie Smith extended the team’s condolences.
“We had a lot of people that came down to support us. Chris Pettry is one of them,” he said. “One of our loyal supporters that was killed as he came to Jacksonville to support his favorite team. So our prayers definitely go out to his family.”
(Tribune reporter Vaughn McClure contributed to this story.)