A man accused of fatally stabbing a 43-year-old man earlier this week on a Blue Line train was on bond in a separate case and had an extensive criminal history, Cook County prosecutors said Thursday.
The attack wasn’t random, according to prosecutors, who said the two men appeared to know each other.
Earlier in the night, video surveillance cameras recorded 53-year-old Travis Cook and Nicholas Osthimer at a liquor store together, where Osthimer withdrew money from an ATM, prosecutors said.
The two were also allegedly recorded together at other locations that night.
About 10:30 p.m. Monday, surveillance cameras recorded the two men sitting across from each other on a Blue Line train when Osthimer got out of his seat and appeared to reach into Cook’s pocket while he slept on the train, prosecutors said.
Cook then appeared to wake up and yell at Osthimer, before pulling out a knife and repeatedly “slashing and stabbing” him, prosecutors said.
Cook got off at the next stop and allegedly left Osthimer bleeding on the train until he was found by another passenger, who notified authorities.
Osthimer was taken to Stroger Hospital for treatment, but died.
The following day, Cook went to Stroger Hospital for treatment for a medical condition unrelated to the stabbing and “became aggressive” with hospital staff, prosecutors said.
Nursing staff later recognized Cook from a bulletin that included a photo taken from the train's surveillance and they called police, prosecutors said.
Cook was still wearing the same sweatshirt with the words “Pink Runtz” written on it at the hospital that he was seen wearing in the CTA surveillance footage and he was also recognized by a suburban police officer at the hospital as someone he had previously arrested, prosecutors said.
Cook was taken into custody and charged with first-degree murder.
“Not only did [Cook] brutally murder the victim in this case, but he has a long and extensive criminal history which includes crimes of violence and he has a long history of failing to appear in court,” Assistant State’s Attorney Daniel Hanichak told Judge Maryam Ahmad.
Cook has 18 prior felony convictions, including aggravated robbery and armed robbery, Hanichak said.
Judge Ahmad ordered Cook held without bail and set his next court date for June 17.
He had been released on his own recognizance in January in a pending misdemeanor retail theft case where he allegedly stole items from a Walgreens in suburban Westchester, according to court records. A warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to show up for his next court date.
An assistant public defender said Cook was homeless, but trying to start a landscaping business to provide for himself.
After the bond hearing was held, Cook told Ahmad that he was deaf and couldn’t hear what anyone had said in the hearing. A sign language interpreter was not immediately available, though sheriff’s deputies told the judge that Cook could not understand sign language.
Cook, who appeared in the hearing via livestream, agreed he could understand the speakers if he could see their faces, and a summary of the hearing was re-conducted after adjustments were made to the computer Cook was using to view the hearing.
In March, the mayor and the head of the CTA unveiled a plan to add unarmed private security guards and stepped-up police patrols to combat a spike in crime on trains and stations.
But a CTA union president countered that the transit agency should bring back conductors and re-establish its own police unit.
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