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South Loop Killer Identified Thanks To No. 23 Bears Jersey, Prosecutors Say

By Erica Demarest | August 30, 2016 12:09pm | Updated on August 30, 2016 1:00pm
 Robert Burgess, 56, is charged with first-degree murder.
Robert Burgess, 56, is charged with first-degree murder.
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DNAinfo; Chicago Police Department

COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — The murder of 45-year-old William Smith, a South Loop resident heading out to get a cup of coffee at 10 a.m. Sunday, was a robbery gone wrong, prosecutors said Tuesday.

And prosecutors say the killer's old Bears jersey helped tie him to the crime.

Smith left his South Loop condo Sunday morning and was walking to Dunkin' Donuts when someone in a dark Hyundai pulled up alongside him near 18th Street and Michigan Avenue, according to prosecutors and a neighbor.

RELATED: South Loop Murder Victim Was 'Regular Guy' Going For Coffee, Neighbors Say

Authorities have identified the driver as 56-year-old Robert Burgess, of the 6200 block of South Kimbark Avenue. He now faces first-degree murder charges.

According to Assistant State's Attorney Elena Gottreich, Burgess stepped out of the Hyundai, pulled out a .45 caliber handgun and demanded money from Smith.

Burgess is accused of shooting Smith once in his head and fleeing the scene — but not before nearby surveillance cameras captured Burgess' license plate and outfit. According to prosecutors, Burgess wore a Devin Hester Chicago Bears jersey, blue shorts and white gym shoes.

Police found Burgess later that day at his Woodlawn home, where they noticed a wet Devin Hester jersey near a bottle of Dawn dish soap, Gottreich said. Burgess confessed to police that he tried to rob Smith and murdered the man instead, prosecutors said. He also told officers he tried to wash Smith's blood off his clothing using the Dawn soap, according to prosecutors.

Officers also recovered a .45 caliber handgun, which was linked through preliminary testing to the South Loop murder, Gottreich said.

Logs from Burgess' building indicate that he left home about 9:06 a.m. Sunday and returned by 10:24 a.m., prosecutors said. Video surveillance shows Burgess returning home carrying the Bears jersey in his hand.

Cook County Judge James Brown on Tuesday denied Burgess bail, calling him a "danger to the community."

According to neighbor Gary Leibovitz, Smith was trying to sell his South Loop condominium so that he could move to Florida, where his girlfriend and newborn child live.

"He never got into any trouble ... he was a good guy, friendly to everybody," Leibovitz said. "He was just a regular guy in shorts and a T-shirt walking to get a cup of coffee."

Burgess is an Army veteran who lives with his wife and three daughters, Assistant Public Defender Julie Koehler said in court Tuesday. Burgess graduated from Simeon High School and spent the past 34 years working for U.S. Messenger, according to Koehler.

Burgess has prior convictions for conspiracy to commit murder in 1989 and theft in 1993.

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