Man on trial for gun collector’s murder was his friend, son says

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Sheriff John E. Zaruba announced today the arrest of two suspects in an alleged murder/home invasion that occurred in unincorporated Bartlett this past Friday night. On August 22, 2009, at approximately 2100 hours, the DuPage County SheriffÕs Office responded to a call of a male that was unconscious and not breathing in a residence in the 29W400 block of Schick Road in unincorporated Bartlett. The victim, Carl W. Kuhn (dob 012527), was located on the second floor of the residence unresponsive and he was pronounced dead at the scene by the CoronerÕs Office. Based on the condition of the house an investigation into the circumstances of the subjectÕs death was initiated. The suspects allegedly prearranged the burglary with the intent to steal firearms from Kuhn, who was a known avid firearms collector. During the burglary they allegedly smothered Kuhn. As a result of the investigation, two males have been charged with first degree murder and home invasion. Terry S. Bratcher (dob 052866) of the 3N500 block of Route 59 West Chicago and Keith L. Allen (dob 060488) of the 10000 block of S. LaSalle St. in Chicago. ÒItÕs a tragic case of preying on the elderly, I am proud of the work my detectives have done to solve this case by bringing these individuals to justice as quickly as possible,Ó Sheriff Zaruba stated. Bratcher and Allen are currently being held in the DuPage County Jail. Allen is being held on a 3 million dollars cash bond and Bratcher will be in bond court later today.

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.

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