Nick Viverito says he and his friend were talking with an older couple at a Jacksonville, Fla., bar Saturday night when two women asked if they could sit in empty chairs at their outdoor table while waiting for someone.
That someone turned out to be Matthew Hinson, who authorities say fatally stabbed William Christopher Pettry, 42, of unincorporated Lake Villa Township, inside the bar about 12:30 a.m. Sunday. Pettry shared a love of the Bears with childhood buddy Viverito and they traveled to Jacksonville to see the team play the Jaguars.
Contact information ( * required )
"He was a great person," said Viverito, who thought of Pettry as a brother. "He cared about his friends."
Hinson, 27, of Jacksonville, became "jealous" and "enraged" after seeing his wife talking to Pettry and sliced his throat with a pocket knife while the two men sat on a bench inside Fionn MacCool's Irish Pub and Restaurant, according to authorities.
But Viverito said he and Pettry only talked to the two women as part of a group at the popular bar in the Jacksonville Landing development. Viverito said Hinson even joined them at the table before going inside with his wife and her friend.
"We weren't hitting on them," said Viverito, 42, of Chicago. "We were small talking and BSing."
Viverito said the attack on Pettry happened at least an hour after Hinson arrived at the pub. He said Pettry was killed after going inside to buy another round of drinks.
Hinson sliced Pettry's throat with the knife while the men sat on a bench in the waiting area, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. Viverito said his friend was not confrontational and he has no idea what led to the slaying.
Viverito said a waitress came to the table where he was sitting and told him Pettry was injured.
Authorities said Hinson confessed and was charged with murder. Hinson is held without bail at the Jacksonville Pre-Trial Detention Facility, with a court date set for Oct. 30.
Pettry's wife, Karen, posted a Facebook statement Tuesday saying she hopes Hinson "gets everything coming to him."
"He has taken my husband, friend and the love of my life and most of all the father of my children," Karen Pettry wrote. "He has turned our lives upside down. I'm so angry. My children have to grow up without a father."
Viverito said he knew Pettry, who was called Chris by family and friends, since they were in third grade at a Catholic school in Chicago. Viverito said he asked Perry to go on the Jacksonville trip in June, after an aunt who lives there and formerly worked for the Jaguars called and told him she'd get the men good seats.
Similar to many other Bears fans last weekend, Viverito and Pettry stayed at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront. Viverito said he and Pettry met the older couple at the hotel and decided to join them for drinks at the nearby Fionn MacCool's.
Pettry was a general contractor and involved in a Mastiff breeding business with his wife. Viverito said he was best man at Pettry's wedding and is godfather to one of his late friend's three children.
"He loved his family, he loved his wife, he loved his kids," Viverito said.
Karen Pettry wrote her husband would be proud of the overwhelming support that's been shown to the family since his death.