The man who killed a Chicago Bears fan in downtown Jacksonville, Matthew Hinson, will spend the rest of his life in prison. Matthew Hinson was sentenced Friday to life without parole for killing William “Chris” Pettry, a Chicago Bears who was in town to watch his team play the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Police say Hinson, 29, slashed of the throat of Christopher Pettry in a fit of rage because Pettry (pictured below) was talking to Hinson's wife. Pettry, 42, was in town for the Bears' game against the Jaguars.
Friday’s hearing lasted hours as Hinson faced his victim’s family members. Pettry’s family read statements to Judge Suzanne Bass about what Hinson’s actions have caused their family. Pettry’s mother, Carylin Hedstrom, who lost her husband just weeks before her son was killed, addressed the court, but mostly spoke to Hinson.
“Dealing with Chris’s death is 700 times harder. I’m not sure I have the strength,” said Hedstrom.
Detectives say Hinson, who worked at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront next door, put the pocket knife back in his pocket after attacking Pettry and fled in his truck but was caught a short distance away.
Hinson testified that he takes full responsibility for slitting Pettry's throat in the restaurant and was drunk at the time.
"Obviously I was very inebriated and made a terrible judgement call," he said. "It was not my intention to kill this man."
Pettry’s mother and sister both addressed the court Friday, while his wife and daughter were too overcome with emotion and had the prosecutor read their statements.
“My heart breaks every day when I look at how our life is turned upside down,” read the prosecutor.
An expert witness for the defense testified that Hinson suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after his time on a submarine in the Navy. The defense said PTSD was the reason why Hinson killed Pettry. Hinson claimed he was “black out drunk” at the Jacksonville Landing the night he killed Pettry.
Hinson said he didn't know why he would kill Pettry. He said he doesn't remember any kind of argument. He just said someone grabbed him and he pulled out his knife.
"No matter how many times you say, 'I'm sorry,' there are three children that will grow up without a father," prosecutor Jeffrey Moody said to Hinson.
"I'm sorry for taking away your husband, father, brother and son. I'm so very sorry," Hinson said.
“Now it can be closed, we can move on. It’s how it was done, it’s not the same, no more,” said Hedstrom.
Defense attorneys say Hinson had a problem with alcoholism and PTSD after serving in the Navy, and claimed he did not know what he was doing. Prosecutors pointed to an interrogation video that showed Hinson confessing to the crime, telling investigators he killed many before in battle.
“Using PTSD and serving your country as an excuse,” said Veronica Pettry. “I was former Chicago police sergeant and I never used that as an excuse to take somebody else’s life.”