Guilty plea in slashing death of Chicago Bears fan in Florida bar
BY TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org May 21, 2013 5:04PM
Matthew Hinson, left, of Jacksonville, Fla., was sentenced to life in prison for the stabbing death of Bears fan William Pettry, 42, right, of Lake Villa. | Jacksonville Sheriff's Dept./Facebook photos
Updated: June 23, 2013 6:35AM
Family and friends of the Chicago Bears fan who was fatally slashed in a Jacksonville bar last October feared a murder trial.
They didn’t want to hear the gruesome details, once again, of how William “Chris” Pettry, a 42-year-old Lake Villa man died in what they called a “killer’s unprovoked and evil act.”
Authorities said Jacksonville resident Matthew Reid Hinson spotted Pettry speaking to his wife, then took out a knife and slashed him in the throat. He then walked calmly out of the bar with a bloody knife in his pocket, police said.
On Tuesday, those who knew Pettry best felt relief amidst grief when Hinson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a Duval County, Fla. courtroom.
Hinson, 28, faces 20 years to life in prison when he’s sentenced next Tuesday, Duval County State’s attorney’s office spokeswoman Jackelyn Barnard said.
“It’s a big relief for me and his family, that they don’t have to go through sitting though a trial, listening to testimony and worrying about whether he’ll get off with some crazy technicality or something,” Nick Viverito Jr., Pettry’s best friend said. “It’s just a huge relief that he’s realized what he did and that it was wrong and that saves everyone a lot of headache, torment.”
Viverito said he plans to be in that Florida courtroom to watch Hinson’s sentencing: “I would like to be there, for Chris,” Viverito said.
Pettry’s wife, Karen Pettry, shared the news with family and friends on Facebook.
“Finally some good news regarding Chris’ case,” she wrote. “I received a call this morning from the states attorney that the SOB that murdered Chris will be pleading Guilty to the 2nd degree charges. Now we will not have a long trial. Thank you God!!!”
There was an outpouring of support for the family following Pettry’s death, including support from the Chicago Bears. Tight end Kellen Davis hosted a Wrigleyville bar fundraiser the week after the murder, raising more than $20,000 both online and at the bar charity event. And quarterback Jay Cutler provided the Pettry family with tickets and mingled with them on the field before a game.
Two other online fund-raising campaigns, one started by a Jacksonville man, raised more than $30,000 for the Pettry family.
Viverito said the family is moving on as best they can: “Every day gets a little better. They have to get through those holidays and birthdays, and it gets tough on days like that. But it’s getting better.”
A motive to the killing was never revealed, although authorities confirmed it had nothing to do with sports rivalry. While Hinson confessed to the stabbing, he told police he didn’t remember his reasons for doing so.