CHICAGO — The man accused of killing a Chicago Bears fan in a Jacksonville, Fla., restaurant and bar “coldbloodedly” cut William Pettry’s throat after seeing Pettry talking to his wife, police said Monday.
Matthew Hinson, 27, “became jealous, enraged, whatever you want to call it and approached our victim,” Jacksonville County police Lt. Rob Schoonover said at a news conference. “He calmly and basically coldbloodedly cut the victim’s throat and calmly walked out of the restaurant.”
Police caught up with Hinson as he was pulling out of the restaurant parking lot in his truck early Sunday morning. “He resisted a little bit, they had to put him to the ground,” Schoonover said, explaining the cuts and bruises in Hinson’s mugshot.
Pettry, of Lake Villa, Ill., was in Jacksonville for the Bears game but police said sports rivalry had nothing to do with what happened.
“When he (Hinson) showed up, he found out that our victim and a friend were talking with his wife and another lady,” Schoonover said.
Witnesses told police Hinson and Pettry were “sitting on a bench inside the bar” when Hinson “stood up, cut him (Pettry) and walked out,” Schoonover said, making a cutting motion across his throat with his finger. He described the murder weapon as “a little pocket knife.”
Hinson, from Jacksonville, admitted to the stabbing after his arrest but did not tell police why. Hinson has been charged with murder and is being held without bail.
Pettry had left on a flight from Milwaukee on Friday to attend the Bears game in Jacksonville and was excited to be making the trip with his best friend, according to his cousin, Quincy Asbury Jr.
Pettry was an avid Bears fan who was too busy working at his construction and remodeling company and helping raise his three children to find time to go to games in Chicago, Asbury said. Pettry’s stepfather recently died and Asbury last saw his first-cousin at the man’s wake.
“He was such a huge Bears fan. ... He never got to go to the Bears game, he never got to enjoy it,” said Asbury, who can’t understand how anyone would want to hurt him. “He was always the guy that made you laugh.”
The attack occurred around 12:30 a.m. Sunday at Fionn MacCool’s Irish Restaurant & Pub, an upscale restaurant about a block from the hotel where Pettry was staying — the same hotel where the Bears team was also staying.
Asbury, a River Grove police officer, said he spoke with Pettry’s best friend after the stabbing and said he still doesn’t understand what happened.
Pettry and the friend were with a large group of Bears fans enjoying the evening, the friend told Asbury. At the end of the night, Pettry got up to go to the bathroom and promised to return with a round of drinks.
At some point Pettry stepped out to an outdoor patio, the friend told Asbury. The friend said a waitress came up to the table and said Pettry had been hurt.
“They didn’t know what to tell him. They told him, ‘Your friend isn’t feeling well.’ (The friend) went up to the front and he (Pettry) was on the floor and it was over,” Asbury said.
“I’m still at a loss as to how he goes from the washroom to get another round to ... he never made it back.”
Police said in a press release that Pettry was involved in a “disturbance” with two other people shortly before 2 a.m. at the restaurant.
On her Facebook page, Pettry’s wife, Karen, said she was shocked by the news and searching for answers.
“I’m so numb and I still cannot believe it is true,” wrote Karen Pettry. “Today my husband William Christopher Pettry (Most of you only know him by Chris) was taken from his family way too early.”
“Some idiot has taken his life. Im so mad, just don’t understand why, very lost right now,” she wrote. “Please hug the ones you love because you never know if tomorrow you will have that chance.”
The killing happened at an Irish-themed restaurant and bar in a development along the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville.
The restaurant was busy but not packed early Sunday morning as patrons — many of them in Bears gear — ate and drank while a classic rock cover band played, said Paul Glaser, general manager of Fionn MacCool’s.
Glaser said he was in the dining room when he heard someone yell to dial 911, which he did, he said. The killing happened on a bench in a waiting area near the entrance, Glaser said, and some patrons, including nurses who were in the restaurant, tried to stop the bleeding.
“There was a lot of activity and there was a lot of people that tried to step up and actually save Mr. Pettry’s life,” Glaser said.
The killing marks the first serious violence in what Glaser described as a “family restaurant” since it opened last year, he said. The restaurant is arranging for counselors to talk with any staff members upset by the killing, he said.
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,” Smith said at a news conference Monday. “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.”
Chicago Tribune reporter Vaughn McClure contributed to this story.
Distributed by MCT Information Services