Terry Bratcher was always welcome at Carl Kuhn’s home in rural Bartlett, often visiting the retired lawyer and avid gun collector to repair his cars, chat or take him to a movie.
“He’d stop in and visit him. He was a friend,” Kuhn’s son, Eric, said of Bratcher.
But Bratcher betrayed and murdered the 82-year-old Kuhn in 2009 as part of a plan to steal his extensive collection of rifles, shotguns and other valuable weapons, DuPage County prosecutors said Tuesday as Bratcher’s trial opened.
Bratcher, 45, and a second man, Keith Allen, forced the elderly Kuhn into an upstairs bedroom in his home, where Bratcher smothered Kuhn by pressing his face into a couch cushion, DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said.
“The defendant and Keith Allen murdered him together in his own home,” Berlin told the six-person jury hearing the case.
Allen already has pleaded guilty to Kuhn’s suffocation slaying and is serving a 46-year prison term.
After the murder, Bratcher and Allen stole 46 guns from the house – even sawing open two gun safes to reach weapons stored inside, Berlin said. The guns later were found in the garage of Bratcher’s West Chicago home, he said.
If convicted, Bratcher could face a life sentence for murdering Kuhn, a former vice president of the Illinois State Rifle Association.
Kuhn, who had known Bratcher for years and had represented him in several traffic cases, first began collecting guns while in the military during World War II, his son testified.
“He collected his whole life,” said Eric Kuhn, estimating his father had “a couple of hundred” guns in his house when he was slain on Aug. 21, 2009.
Bratcher planned with Allen to rob the elderly Kuhn of his weapons so they could sell them for drug money, but Bratcher never harmed Kuhn, his attorneys argued.
Instead, Allen smothered Kuhn when Bratcher left them alone briefly in the home,
“Nobody was supposed to get hurt. Terry insisted nobody was to get hurt,” Mara said.