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Guilty plea in fatal stabbing of Bears fan in Florida

A Florida man faces a possible life sentence after pleading guilty to fatally stabbing a Lake County man who flew to Jacksonville for a Chicago Bears game last fall, authorities said.

Matthew R. Hinson, 28, pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder and faces sentencing May 28, according to court records. His sentence could range from 20 years to life, Florida prosecutors said.

Hinson was charged with killing William Pettry, a 42-year-old married father of three from Lake Villa, at an Irish-themed restaurant and bar packed with Bears fans early on Oct. 7, the day the team took on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Police said Hinson apparently grew angry after seeing Pettry talking to his wife.

A friend who was with Pettry in Florida and saw him lying wounded after the attack said he was glad Hinson pleaded guilty. Nick Viverito, of Chicago, said he was relieved that Pettry’s family and friends wouldn’t have to sit through a trial and relive the murder. Viverito hopes Hinson is sentenced to life and never paroled.

“My friend’s family is never going to get to see him again,” Viverito said.

Viverito has said that he and Pettry spoke cordially with Hinson, his wife and others before the attack. Pettry and Hinson were seen sitting together on a bench before Hinson drew a knife and slashed Pettry’s throat, police said. A waitress found Viverito in another area of the restaurant and he rushed over to find his friend dying, he said.

Hinson was arrested a few moments later as he pulled out of the restaurant parking lot in his truck, police said.

Seven months have passed, but Viverito hasn’t made sense of Pettry’s sudden death, he said.

“I think about it almost every day,” he said. “I don’t think it’s ever going to make sense.”

dawilliams@tribune.com

dhinkel@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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