Best friends

Nick Viverito and best friend, William "Chris" Pettry. (Photo courtesy Nick Viverito)

Nick Viverito says he and his best friend William Pettry were enjoying the Florida evening, laughing and socializing with other Bears fans who had traveled to Jacksonville for Sunday's game.

They briefly chatted with a man and his wife and another woman waiting for seats at the Irish restaurant and bar.  The man and the women went inside and, a little later, Pettry also left to buy a round of drinks. He never came back out.

Viverito began to wonder about his friend when a waitress came to the table. “She said, ‘Hey, your friend, he’s not breathing in the bar. He’s full of blood,’ ’’ Viverito recalled in a phone interview.

“I just ran into the bar and there I saw him lying in the pool of blood," he said, his voice shaking.  “What happened inside I don’t know."

Police say the man they briefly met outside, Matthew Hinson, apparently became "enraged" when he saw Pettry talking with his wife. The two were sitting on a bench when witnesses saw Hinson stand up, draw "a little pocket knife" and slice the throat of Pettry.

Hinson, 27, then calmly walked out of Fionn MacCool's as a group of paramedics tried in vain to resuscitate the 42-year-old Pettry and stop the bleeding, according to Viverito and police.

Viverito said he has no idea what could have made Hinson stab his friend.

"The girls were waiting for somewhere to sit and we invited them to join our group and they sat down for a few minutes and then the husband (Hinson) came in and he sat down and introduced himself to us and I shook the guy's hand," Viverito said. "Then they got up and went to the inside bar.

"We were barely talking to them and he sat down and talked to us for a couple of minutes. He didn't seem pissed or angry or anything," Viverito said.

He said Hinson seemed calm and even "a little respectful," and shook Pettry's and Viverito's hands as he introduced himself. He said they exchanged small talk for a few minutes.

"It wasn't like we were talking about anything important, there were no arguments, we were just joking and laughing, having a good time," said Viverito. "The conversation was light, it wasn't like we were talking about world peace or anything."

About an hour later, Pettry got up and went inside the bar, he said.

Viverito said there were several paramedics at the bar, including one from Libertyville, who tried to help Pettry when he was slashed.

"We lost him pretty quick. . .(The paramedic) talked to Chris' wife and apparently there was nothing they could do," he said.

“Why? I mean, what’s the point of doing something like that?’’ Viverito said. "If you’re mad at somebody, just walk away.’’

Viverito and Pettry had known each other for nearly 40 years, since the two were in grade school in the Albany Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side of Chicago. “It’s hitting me in waves," he said, choking up. "I'm still trying to get my head around it. He was a great guy."

Police caught up with Hinson as he was pulling out of the restaurant parking lot in his truck minutes after the early Sunday morning attack. "He resisted a little bit, they had to put him to the ground," Schoonover said, explaining cuts and bruises in Hinson's mugshot.

Hinson, from Jacksonville, admitted to the stabbing but did not tell police why. Hinson has been charged with murder and is being held without bail.

A search of Florida arrest and court records turned up only traffic-related offenses. Hinson pleaded no contest to a charge of driving under the influence in the Jacksonville area in June 2006, according to court records from Clay County.

Pettry's mother, Carylin Hedstrom of Chicago, woke up to a phone call early Sunday from her son's wife Karen. The last time she saw her son was Friday before his flight to Florida, when he helped sort through the belongings of his stepfather, who died of lung cancer Sept. 18.

"I haven't cleaned up on my other situation," Hedstrom said. "It hasn't been easy."

Like Viverito, family and friends were still trying to make sense of the death of a man they remembered as gregarious and peaceable. As the owner of a construction and remodeling company, Pettry — known to friends and family as Chris — spent most of his time working or with his wife and three school-age children, relatives said, so the trip was a rare treat.

"How do you get up and go to the washroom … and end up with your throat cut?" asked Pettry's cousin, Quincy Asbury Jr., a River Grove police officer. "To me, that's borderline insanity. It's just a waste. A total waste."

Tribune reporter Vaughn McClure contributed to this story.

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