Michael Portaro Murder: Where is Brandon Hill Now?

In March 2011, a police call was made by witnesses who observed a man being shot outside a brewery in Las Vegas, Nevada. The discovered body was identified as Michael Portaro, a rising hip-hop artist from the local area. Described by his family and friends as a responsible and well-regarded young man, the circumstances surrounding his death left them perplexed, as there seemed to be no apparent reason for someone to harm him. Oxygen’s ‘Sin City Murders’ episode titled ‘Hip Hop Homicide’ closely examines the investigation, aiming to unveil the identity of the killer and understand their motivation.

Michael Portaro was Selling Tickets to His Concert When He was Killed

Born on May 25, 1988, Michael Portaro was the third among the five children of Richard and Cynthia Portaro. Known for his amiable nature, he consistently brought joy and laughter to those around him. Alongside his cheerful disposition, he demonstrated diligence in his studies and pursued his passion for football, serving as a quarterback for Faith Lutheran High School. Following his graduation in 2006, he continued his engagement with football at Santa Barbara City College.

As an emerging hip-hop artist, the 22-year-old frequently showcased his talent alongside his friend Jeff Thompson, performing at small concerts. His family took immense pride in his achievements and wholeheartedly supported his musical career. On the evening of March 31, 2011, he was standing in the parking lot of the Tenaya Creek Brewery in Las Vegas, selling tickets for an upcoming concert. He fell victim to a shooting, succumbing to multiple gunshot wounds, including one to the head, before the police could reach the scene.

A Cigarette Led to the Identification of Michael Portaro’s Killer

Upon arriving at the scene and identifying Michael’s body, officials started a comprehensive investigation. An initial observation revealed the absence of shell casings, leading them to infer that a revolver had been used in the shooting. Additionally, beneath his body, they discovered a half-smoked cigarette. Recognizing the potential for DNA traces on this small piece, detectives considered it a valuable lead to identifying the perpetrator.

The police further observed that Portaro’s car was missing from the scene. They checked the records and discovered that the vehicle had been impounded in North Las Vegas. Upon retrieval, it was evident that it had been subjected to partial burning, both externally as well as internally. The police thus took this vehicle for forensic analysis and then immediately began scrutinizing surveillance footage from the parking lot. The footage revealed a figure wearing a hooded jacket and white shorts, smoking a cigarette, approaching Portaro. The exchange was obscured by the grainy footage, but after the individual walked away, Portaro was found lying on the pavement.

In their quest to identify the perpetrator, the police delved into the records of previous offenders in the area, aiming to match the weapon or clothing to any known individuals. At the same time, Portaro’s family announced a reward of $30,000 for any information that could lead to the arrest of the killer. Simultaneously, they disseminated information through the media, leading to an anonymous tip identifying the man/prime suspect/alleged shooter as Brandon Javon Hill. Upon further scrutiny of surveillance footage, police discovered that Hill had been previously arrested in April 2011 for carrying a concealed weapon; the same kind depicted in the footage/used on Portaro.

Four days before Portaro’s death on March 26, a man had reported the theft of his vehicle, disclosing that the robber possessed a revolver. The theft victim positively identified Hill from a picture lineup too. Subsequently, on May 19, Hill was arrested on charges related to the vehicle theft case. While in custody, the police obtained his DNA for comparison with the DNA recovered from the cigarette butt found at the scene of Portaro’s murder. It turned out to be a perfect match, and he was hence indicted on the charges of murder with a deadly weapon, two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon, two counts of grand larceny-auto, and carrying a concealed weapon.

Brandon Hill is Incarcerated Today

Brandon Jovan Hill’s trial commenced in early 2015, where prosecutors presented that he had committed the crime unprovoked, intending to steal the money Michael Portaro had earned from selling tickets. Despite denying all these allegations, he was ultimately found guilty on charges including robbery, carrying a concealed weapon, larceny of a motor vehicle, use of a deadly weapon, and first-degree murder. The prosecutors sought the death penalty, and the date for his sentencing was scheduled for April 2015.

However, during his sentencing hearing, the victim’s mother Cynthia Portaro approached prosecutors and requested that the death sentence be removed from consideration. Following extensive discussions, Hill was ultimately sentenced to 28 years to life in prison. He took the opportunity to offer an apology to Cynthia. Presently, at 35, he is serving his sentence at the Southern Desert Correctional Center.

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