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Alleged killer of Bears fan saw him talking to his wife: police

Matthew Hinsleft Jacksonville Fla. was sentenced life prisfor stabbing death Bears fan William Pettry 42 right Lake Villa. | Jacksonville

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

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Updated: November 10, 2012 6:12AM

Chris Pettry, one of a bunch of Bears fans packing a Florida bar the night before the football game, had his throat fatally slashed by a man, police said Monday, who apparently believed the Lake Villa man ought not have been talking to his wife.

The former military man spotted Pettry, 42, speaking to his wife at the bar in Jacksonville early Sunday morning. Moments later, Pettry lay on the floor, his neck cut, and Matthew Reid Hinson walked calmly out of the Irish-themed pub, a bloody knife in his pocket, Jacksonville sheriff’s investigators said Monday.

“For some reason, he became jealous, enraged, whatever you want to call it, and approached our victim,” said Jacksonville Sheriff’s Lt. Rob Schoonover. “According to one of the eyewitnesses, he calmly and basically cold-blooded just cut the victim’s throat, and calmly walked out of the restaurant.”

Pettry, a married father of three children, died later at a Jacksonville hospital.

His family, still in shock Monday, lamented he became the “innocent victim of a killer’s unprovoked and evil act.”

Police said Hinson confessed to the crime after being arrested in his truck shortly after the murder.

They found a small pocket knife on him believed to be the murder weapon. He had been drinking, police wrote in a report. He told investigators he’d been in the military.

“During a subsequent interview post Miranda, Hinson gives admissions to stabbing the victim but also alleged he does not remember his reasons for doing so,” according to a police report.

Hinson, 27, remained in the Duval County jail Monday, charged with the murder of William Christopher “Chris” Pettry, who traveled to Jacksonville to see the Bears play, police said.

The slaying, they added, had nothing to do with any kind of football rivalry.

Bears coach Lovie Smith spoke briefly about Pettry during his Monday press conference.

“Like we talked about last week, our fans were outstanding,” Smith said. “From the hotel and throughout the game, we had a lot of people who came down to support us. Pettry was one of them.

“You know, 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.”

The slaying happened shortly after midnight Sunday, inside Fionn MacCool’s, an Irish-themed bar and restaurant close to the hotel where the Bears and their fans were staying.

Quincy Asbury Jr. described his cousin Pettry as “good natured” and “a hard worker.”

The devoted father to his three children, two daughters and a son who played football in Lake Villa, went to Jacksonville with his best friend to watch Sunday’s Bears game, and the pair joined hundreds of other Bears fans at the bar Saturday night. His stepfather just died a few weeks ao, Asbury said.

The friend told Asbury early Sunday morning on the telephone that he and Pettry were out on the bar’s patio when Pettry left for the restroom, then to the bar to re-up their drinks. He didn’t return.

“[The friend] told me explicitly nothing was going on. Chris wasn’t in any kind of altercation, nothing of that sort.

“What could you do to a person in a 20-25 minute timeframe to warrant that kind of rage?”

Pettry’s family is still awaiting answers. Fighting is out of character for him. So is chatting up women, Asbury said.

“We’re trying to just figure out, we got so many conflicting things: He was fighting, he was doing nothing, he was talking. Evidently there’s nothing I’ve seen that would indicate any kind of confrontation, provocation,” Asbury said. “I don’t know how that warrants slashing someone’s throat.

Police arrested Hinson inside his truck a short while after the incident, the sheriff’s office said. Investigators recovered what Schoonover described as a “little pocket knife.”

A jail mugshot shows Hinson’s face to be bruised and bloodied. In a posting on its Facebook page, the sheriff’s office said: “The suspect got his injuries when he was arrested by police. When police made contact with him, he resisted. The injuries were not from the victim.”

Pettry, who spent some of his childhood in West Virginia, owned his own construction-remodeling business.

“He helped family members, offered you work,” if you needed it, Asbury said. “He’s a hard worker.”

Pettry’s wife, Karen, was too distraught to speak to anyone Monday, Asbury said. She wrote about the tragedy on her Facebook page Sunday, saying: “I’m so numb and I still cannot believe it is true. ...

“Today my husband William Christopher Pettry (Most of you only know him by Chris) was taken from his family way to early. Some idiot has taken his life. Im so mad, just don’t understand why, very lost right now. Please hug the ones you love because you never know if tomorrow you will have that chance.”

Meanwhile,a Jacksonville man started an online fund-raiser to benefit the Pettry family.

“The citizens of Jacksonville wish to show they are united with Mrs. Pettry and her family in this most terrible time,” John Deffes posted on a site, that by Monday evening had raised a few hundred dollars.

“Dear Mrs. Pettry, the good citizens of Jacksonville are in shock and are truly horrified by the events that took your husband’s life,” another donor wrote.

Reached at his home Monday, Deffes said he saw Pettry’s story on his local news and his heart broke for the Pettry family. He said he spoke to Karen Pettry to make sure she approved, and to sign the account overto her Paypal account.

“I thought maybe there’d be some tangible way of saying we’re sorry here in Jacksonville instead of, ‘I’m sorry.’” he said.

“Just an idea and a thought I had to make things a little bit easier on the family.”

Contributing: Sean Jensen

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