Updated: June 17, 2014 2:16PM
The wife of a slain Vietnam War veteran testified Wednesday that her husband was in pain for days before he died from injuries he received in a strong-arm robbery outside a Midlothian bank in November 2009.
Mary Burtner told a Cook County judge that her husband, Bill, was favoring his left side and she asked him not go through with a chemotherapy appointment that he had scheduled two days after being attacked and robbed at the AJ Smith Federal Savings Bank, 14757 Cicero Ave. She said she found him dead in bed a few hours after returning from that appointment.
Jerry Brown, of Calumet City, and Steve Smith, of Chicago, are on trial for first-degree murder in the death of Burtner, 65, who was commander at Midlothian Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2580. They also are charged with robbery and aggravated battery of a senior citizen.
Prosecutors said Burtner was at the bank on Nov. 16, 2009, to deposit about $2,100 in donations collected by Post 2580 for veterans when Smith struck him, knocked him down and stole the cash from a cigar box, fleeing in a car driven by Brown.
Burtner, who was fighting lung cancer, was taken to a hospital and treated for broken ribs and an injured knee, authorities said.
Mary Burtner testified that her husband was in a lot of pain after the robbery, had trouble walking and ate little. On Nov. 18, the couple went to the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, at Bill Burtner’s insistence, for chemotherapy.
After coming home that afternoon, Bill Burtner went to bed with his wife’s help. By 8:30 p.m., Mary Burtner noticed that her husband was lying too still and was pale gray in color.
“I didn’t put my finger under his nose,” she said. “I just knew that he was gone.”
Bank employees also testified Wednesday about what they saw the day of the robbery.
Connie Weimer, who was a teller at the bank that day, said she saw Bill Burtner walking toward the bank and a man in a hooded sweatshirt approach him. Weimer said she lost sight of them when they walked in front of a wall that blocked her view from the teller station.
Moments later, the hooded figure ran toward a black car in the nearby Wendy’s restaurant parking lot, got in the passenger seat and cr drove off, she testified.
“I just turned around and yelled ‘Call 911!’ ” Weimer said.
She could not identify the man in the sweatshirt nor was she able to give a description of the car or its license plate.
Tamara Esposito, one of the bank employees who helped Burtner after the robbery, testified that he asked her to pick up an empty cigar box that had contained money he planned to deposit.
“He was having a hard time, telling me he was hurt,” Esposito said, adding that Burtner was having trouble breathing.
The trial continues Thursday at the county courthouse in Markham.