A West Chicago man was sentenced Monday to natural life in prison for the 2009 murder of his former attorney, who was suffocated with a cushion during a robbery of his prized gun collection.
DuPage County Judge Blanche Hill Fawell imposed the maximum term on Terry Bratcher, 45, who was convicted by a jury in September of murdering 82-year-old Carl Kuhn.
Fawell noted that Bratcher was once considered a trusted friend of Kuhn's. But she said that trust was violently betrayed on Aug. 21, 2009, when the elderly man was blindfolded and smothered inside his rural Bartlett home.
"(Bratcher) literally led the victim upstairs to his death," Fawell said.
Assistant Public Defender Jaime Escuder had sought a 25-year term for Bratcher. He said his client's actions the day of the murder were out of character and fueled by a prescription drug addiction.
But State's Attorney Robert Berlin argued the case "cried out for the maximum" sentence because Bratcher planned out the robbery and took steps to humiliate and terrify Kuhn as it unfolded.
"It's just simple evil," he said. "Carl Kuhn was in his golden years. Whatever days he had left in this world, the defendant took that away."
Kuhn's son, Evan Kuhn, said his family's hopes and prayers were answered when Fawell handed down a life term without the possibility of parole.
"It was justice," he said outside of court. "We're just grateful now this is over and we can have closure."
Bratcher was the second man convicted of Carl Kuhn's murder. Keith Allen, 23, of Chicago, pleaded guilty earlier this year and is now serving 46 years.
Prosecutors said Bratcher and Allen devised the scheme to get drug money after meeting at a Cook County drug court class. Bratcher, who was once represented by Kuhn and later befriended him, told Allen he knew a man with a vast and valuable firearm collection.
On the day of the murder, the robbers entered Kuhn's home and forced him blindfolded and at gunpoint to an upstairs bedroom, where he was suffocated facedown into a pillow for at least 30 seconds. Allen later admitted he checked Kuhn's pulse while Bratcher suffocated him.
During the robbery, prosecutors said, the men also forced Kuhn to drink iced tea laced with dish soap. They took more than 40 guns after sawing into one of his safes.
Bratcher and Allen were arrested after Bratcher's mother found one of the stolen weapons in her car. She summoned police, who located a cache of guns in her garage.
In a video interview, Bratcher straddled a detective and demonstrated how he smothered Kuhn. But he claimed he left the elderly man alive because he couldn't bring himself to kill.
Bratcher's younger sister, Gina Fedrowitz, said her brother was a loving family man who did not receive treatment for drug addiction because he did not have health insurance. She said she disagreed with the life sentence and that her brother should have received the same 46 years, as Allen did.
Berlin, who prosecuted the case with Assistant State's Attorney Mary Cronin, said Bratcher "earned" his life sentence.
"It's that simple," he said. "Clearly, Carl Kuhn suffered. He was defenseless in his own home."