When detectives told him the man he had struck died from his injuries, defendant Brandon Lee Allen Hinton broke into sobs on the tape prosecutors played in a Skokie courtroom Wednesday.
“I didn’t want him to die, man,” Hinton was heard telling the detectives in the interview.
Prosecutors played the tape for a jury as Hinton listened with hands to his face, eyes closed at times. Evanston detectives Joe Bush and Aaron Wernick questioned him about the events leading up to the death of John Costulas on the 500 block of Howard Street on Sept. 2, 2011.
Hinton, 28, of Hazel Crest, is charged with one count of first degree murder and one count of aggravated robbery in the case.
Prosecutors contend Costulas, 61, who walked with a cane and had a hearing aide, was going to work in the 500 block of Howard about 5:20 a.m. that day, walking east on Howard, when Hinton approached him and struck him in the head, causing the man to fall to the ground.
Hinton allegedly then reached into the Costulas’ paints pocket and removed $10 before leaving the scene with a friend.
On Sept. 10, 2011, at 3:38 a.m., Costulas succumbed to his injuries dying at a local hospital.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Costulas’ death a homicide and stated the cause of death was “blunt head trauma due to an assault.”
In the tape played Wednesday, the Hinton told detectives that he and a friend, Parrish Morris, who was not charged in the incident, had spent the night and early morning drinking in the Rogers Park area, and then riding the train afterward. Getting off at the Howard Street station early in the morning, they were waiting for stores to open up by 7 a.m. so they could buy more liquor, Hinton told detectives.
Hinton, who acknowledged he had been drinking, recalled striking Costulas in the shoulder and said he could remember no prior conversation.
“It wasn’t about having no money,” he said, denying detectives suggestions that the attack had been plotted out so Hinton, father of a young child, could get some money. “It was just like hit the dude, went in his pockets.”
He said he and Morris, who is not charged, then ran off, going to Morris’ home in Rogers Park.
“At that point did you or Parrish contact 911, alert them that somebody was injured?” Bush asked him on the tape.
“No,” Hinton said.
He said the two returned to the scene in 20 minutes but didn’t see the victim.
On the tape, Hinton said he had been watching the news, and was aware of his role in the robbery.
When detectives informed him the man had lapsed into a coma and died from his injuries, Hinton broke into sobs.
“I didn’t want to do no murder,” he said.
Bush and Wernick later traced a Chicago Transit Authority fare card and the serial number on the victim’s hearing aid to learn the victim’s identity. The detectives used video surveillance footage, working with the CTA, to determine Hinton’s involvement in the death.
Members of the Brummel Park neighborhood and residents of the 8th Ward have been following the case for two years.
“It’s a heart breaking case,” Michelle Hayes, one of the Brummel Park leaders, said Wednesdayin court.
Brummel Park residents have mobilized to form one of the city’s top community policing groups, and their efforts have been credited with bringing down crime in the area.
Hayes said residents were concerned particularly because of the random nature of the incident.
Also, she said there was concern about the safety of other disabled people in the area who use center on Howard Street.