At first, no concrete evidence of a murder

Published: 8/25/2009 5:55 PM | Updated: 8/25/2009 5:58 PM

Why did it take authorities four days to announce the murder of Carl W. Kuhn?

Because they weren't certain a murder had been committed.

In some respects, initial evidence suggested Carl Kuhn died of natural causes.

Authorities found the 82-year-old Bartlett man dead in a bed with no outward signs of trauma at about 9 p.m. Friday.

They later would determine Kuhn had been strangled. But broken blood vessels in the eyes - often a telltale sign of a strangulation or suffocation - were not present.

"Suffocation, especially in elderly citizens, is often masked by heart conditions, and Mr. Kuhn had heart issues," DuPage State's Attorney Joe Birkett said. "If you get a weak heart, you won't get the same level of hemorrhaging (in the eyes.)"

But there were other suggestions something was amiss. Kuhn's house was not in order, suggesting a robbery may have occurred, though there was no evidence of a break-in.

"When you find a body, you treat it like a homicide until you determine otherwise," Birkett said.

An autopsy didn't immediately show a specific cause of death, either, Birkett said. Two men would eventually be charged with smothering Kuhn with a pillow, but it would only come after they confessed, authorities said.

In the meantime, sheriff's investigators worked the case, eventually tying one of Kuhn's former clients, Terry S. Bratcher of West Chicago, to the case through cell phone records.

Birkett called the sheriff's detectives work "a thorough and outstanding investigation" that led to him approving homicide charges against the 43-year-old Bratcher and 21-year-old Keith L. Allen of Chicago at about 6 p.m. Monday. He also credited assistant state's attorney Bob Berlin - a deputy chief within Birkett's criminal cases division - with helping secure homicide charges.