Man gets life in prison for killing gun-rights advocate to steal his firearms
BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org November 21, 2011 4:18PM
Updated: December 23, 2011 8:10AM
Retired attorney and avid gun collector Carl Kuhn “opened his heart and home” to Terry Bratcher, representing him in numerous cases, loaning him money and lining up a job for him.
Bratcher repaid those kindnesses by smothering the 82-year-old former Illinois State Rifle Association official and then stealing dozens of guns from his Bartlett-area home.
“Terry Bratcher is a cold-blooded, heartless killer. We ask and pray that the court shows him the same amount of respect that he has shown my grandpa,” Carl Kuhn’s granddaughter, Holly, said Monday as Bratcher was sentenced for the 2009 murder.
A DuPage County judge listened, ordering the 45-year-old West Chicago man to spend the rest of his life in prison for Kuhn’s murder.
That punishment brought a measure of relief to Kuhn’s relatives, who said they continue to struggle with his slaying at the hands of a man he knew and trusted.
“The sentence is what we hoped and prayed for,” said Kuhn’s son, Evan. “It was justice.”
Bratcher was convicted in September of murdering Kuhn as part of a scheme to steal and sell his extensive collection of rifles, pistols and shotguns. Prosecutors said Bratcher and another man, Keith Allen of Chicago, planned to use the money to buy illegal drugs.
Kuhn was found suffocated in his rural home on Aug. 21, 2009.
Prosecutors said Bratcher entered the home to chat with Kuhn, then later signaled for a masked Allen to sneak into the house with a gun. Both men blindfolded Kuhn with a jacket and a pair of men’s underwear, then led him to a second-floor bedroom and smothered him by forcing his face into a couch cushion, authorities said.
Police later discovered 46 guns taken from Kuhn’s home stashed in Bratcher’s garage.
Judge Blanche Hill Fawell cited Bratcher’s close relationship with Kuhn and the cold-blooded nature of the killing as she imposed the maximum punishment.
“He literally led an elderly man upstairs to his death,” Fawell said.
Prosecutors said the sentence was appropriate.
“This was a case that just cried out for the maximum sentence. This defendant earned a natural life sentence,” said DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin, who prosecuted the case with Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Cronin.
Allen, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to participating in the murder, was sentenced to 46 years in prison for the killing.
Several Bratcher relatives said he should have received a sentence similar to the one imposed on his accomplice.
“I disagree with the sentence,” said Bratcher’s younger sister, Gina Fedrowitz, who testified that her brother was devoted to his family but had long struggled with an addiction to prescription painkillers.
Bratcher was a friend and former client who frequently visited Kuhn’s home, sometimes running errands for him or repairing his cars, Kuhn’s relatives said.
“Terry was once considered a trusted friend to my grandpa and someone whom my grandpa opened his heart and home to,” Holly Kuhn said before Bratcher was sentenced.