Portage Park restaurant ‘devastated’ after chef is fatally stabbed in kitchen by coworker

Jesus Martinez | Chicago police

An Elmwood Park man is accused of ambushing a fellow chef in the kitchen of a Portage Park restaurant Sunday, fatally stabbing him for several minutes as he fended off coworkers trying to stop him, prosecutors say.

Jesus Martinez, 37, is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of 35-year-old Cory Neill, who both worked as chefs at the Foundation Tavern and Grille, 5007 W. Irving Park Rd., according to Cook County prosecutors.

Martinez, whose only prior offense is a misdemeanor DUI case from 2007, may have been motived by the false belief that his coworker broke into his home and attacked his family, prosecutors allege.

Martinez was denied bail Wednesday during a court hearing in which Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy laid out details of the attack in a bond proffer.

Murphy said “crystal clear” video surveillance in the kitchen shows Neill and Martinez working side-by-side at the grill and oven area over a period of time, with no unusual behavior or arguments between the two.

When other employees walk out, leaving the pair alone in the kitchen at 6:53 p.m., Martinez leaves for the basement after appearing to tell Neill to watch what he was cooking on the stove, Murphy said.

Martinez walks off camera and returns 20 seconds later holding a 9-inch long fillet knife, and walks briskly to Neill, grabbing him from behind and stabbing him repeatedly, Murphy said.

The video shows Neill fall to the floor with Martinez standing over him, continuing to stab him, Murphy said.

Several coworkers rushed back into the kitchen and tried to disarm Martinez, but he refused, Murphy said.

“The employees tried to use cutting boards and a chair to disarm and subdue the defendant, but none of it worked,” Murphy said in the proffer. Martinez remained on top of Neill, and pointed the knife at anyone who approached him, Murphy said.

After four minutes, a Chicago police officer entered the kitchen, gun drawn, and ordered Martinez to drop the knife, which he did, Murphy said.

Martinez was arrested and told investigators a false accusation about Neill breaking into his house and sexually assaulting his daughter and cutting his son, Murphy said. Prosecutors said the allegations were not accurate, and were refuted by Martinez’s wife.

Neill, of suburban Stickney, was rushed to Illinois Masonic Medical Center and pronounced dead, the medical examiner’s office said. An autopsy ruled his death a homicide.

Cory Neill was a chef at the Foundation Tavern and Grille in Portage Park. | GoFundMe/Google Maps

The owners of Foundation Tavern and Grille said in a Facebook post they were “devastated” to announce the death of Neill.

“He was always cooking with a smile and brightening the days of all of those who had the pleasure of spending time with him,” the restaurant owners said in the post.

“He was truly passionate about his craft and was always looking for ways to improve the kitchen and the establishment as a whole. Our family will not be the same without Cory.”

The owners said they closed the restaurant on Tuesday in his remembrance.

“The world lost a really great person,” friend Joe Wolfe said in an interview. “He was an all-around great soul. He had a passion for music, for food.”

He said they grew up together in suburban Berwyn.

Another friend, Justin Thorndyke, said he remembers Neill as an “amazing person” and a “sweet guy” from when Neill performed under the name “DJ Hindsight.”

“He spun jungle and dubstep,” Thorndyke said. “He was passionate about reaching people’s hearts through music.”

Ald. James Gardiner (45th) said in a statement he was saddened to hear of the loss of life.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim during this difficult time,” he said.

An online fundraiser raised more than $4,000 by Wednesday afternoon to pay for funeral expenses. Visitation will be held 4 p.m. Friday at the Dieterle Memorial Home at 1120 S. Broadway Ave. in Montgomery.

Martinez is due in court again Dec. 30.