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Brandon Marshall reaches out to slain Bears fan’s family

Bears receiver BrandMarshall called widow slafan Chris Pettry extend condolences offer encouragement. | AP

Bears receiver Brandon Marshall called the widow of slain fan Chris Pettry to extend condolences and offer encouragement. | AP

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Updated: October 12, 2012 7:46PM

Late Sunday night, as the Bears were shuttling to the airport in Jacksonville, receiver Brandon Marshall read the tragic news.

Bears fan Chris Pettry of Lake Villa had his throat slashed by Matthew Hinson at a Jacksonville bar early Sunday morning. Authorities arrested Hinson a short time later, and he confessed to the crime.

“When you get a win, especially the way we did, it really feels good. It’s something special,” Marshall told the Sun-Times. “But on the way to the airplane, to read the story, it just deflated me.”

Pettry’s death resonated with the Bears.

Coach Lovie Smith had lauded Bears fans repeatedly in recent weeks for traveling well and chanting, “Let’s go Bears!” at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas and EverBank Field in Jacksonville. Pettry was one of those

passionate fans, which is why Smith opened his press conference Monday by offering his condolences to his family.

“Our fans were outstanding,” Smith said. “From the hotel and of course throughout the game, we had a lot of people who came down to support us. [Chris] Pettry was one of them, 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 Bears have their bye this weekend but different players separately offered to help Pettry’s widow.

Marshall and his wife Michi talked and prayed, and they contacted Karen Pettry.

“The biggest thing was to encourage her and let her know they can find rest in the Lord and lean on him,” Marshall said. “Also, we got to talking a little bit. She was concerned about not having a job. I told her to take her time and get through this. Use the people around her. Use us to breathe, and take the time she needs, and be there for her children.

“Don’t worry about any of that because we got her.”

Wayne Jett of Sideline Marketing works closely with a lot of the Bears players. A mutual friend of the Pettrys and Jett put them in touch.

Jett informed Bears tight end Kellen Davis, who immediately offered to help in any way he could.

They scrambled to put together an fundraiser to benefit the family. Chris Pettry was the sole breadwinner, a general contractor, and he didn’t have life insurance.

Karen Pettry said she isn’t sure how she’s going to pay her $1,500 mortgage on their Lake Villa home. Fortunately, her mother-in-law has offered to pay for the funeral.

“I just thought it was such a senseless and just a terrible thing,” Davis said. “I just thought it was a good opportunity to try to give back.

“It was pretty much a no-brainer just helping out a fellow human being who is in distress.”

From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at John Barleycorn in Wrigleyville, Davis and many other former and current Bears will host a fundraiser. There will be signed memorabilia auctioned off from players such as

Devin Hester, Matt Forte, Earl Bennett, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher, among others.

“We’re just trying to raise some money for them so they at least have a chance to get past this and not have to worry about being in debt or losing a house or anything crazy like that,” Davis said.

Added Forte, “It’s going to be difficult for that family and his wife to deal with so the more help they can get it’s hopefully going to make it better for them.”

When Marshall called, Karen Pettry didn’t recognize the name.

“I’m not into [the Bears] as much as Chris,” she said.

When Marshall introduced himself, Karen told him that he had the wrong number.

“My son comes flying out of his room. ‘You don’t know who that is?’ He said, ‘That’s Brandon Marshall!’ ”

Asked about the Bears players offering their support, Karen said, “I don’t even know how to put it into words.

“I can’t thank everyone enough.”

Marshall said he’s been moved by the fervor of Bears fans since joining the team via trade in March.

“Not knowing what happened didn’t matter. Because whatever happened, it shouldn’t have resulted in that,” Marshall said. “He leaves behind three children and a wife, and that’s a big loss, not only for them but our whole community.

“[Chris Pettry] loves the Bears. He supports us. It’s only right for us to step up and support him. If we can all come together to support our Bears on the field, we can do the same thing off the field. Bears aren’t the only ones who are wearing the jerseys. It’s the people who support us every Sunday. This is going to say a lot about our fans, and our community and our state coming together to support this family.”

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