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Man who stabbed 2 hospital patients, killing 1, sentenced to prison

A man was sentenced Wednesday in Las Vegas to at least 21 years in prison for stabbing two patients, one fatally, at University Medical Center.

District Judge Michelle Leavitt sentenced Michael Earl, 48, who was a patient at the time of the stabbings last year, under the terms of his plea agreement. He could remain in prison for life.

Earl pleaded guilty but mentally ill in October to one count of murder with a deadly weapon in the death of Porfirio Rea, 29, and one count of attempted murder with a deadly weapon in the stabbing of a second hospital patient.

Daniel Rea, Porfirio Rea’s younger brother, urged Leavitt to “consider throwing away the key” when incarcerating the defendant.

He told Leavitt that he has thought about his brother every day since his murder. He lamented that his brother had been “taken with such malice” and said a 21-year sentence would be too generous.

“I will never have my brother back, and my niece will never have her father to grow up with,” he said, adding that his niece “will never know how much her daddy would have loved her.”

Earl did not make a statement before Leavitt imposed the sentence, but defense attorney James Ruggeroli expressed condolences to Porfirio Rea’s family members, who were present in the courtroom.

Earl, according to Ruggeroli, committed the crimes because he had suffered a psychotic break at the hospital, not because he was trying to commit any underlying crime. Ruggeroli also said that University Medical Center failed to follow its own procedures on the night of the stabbings.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Earl admitted that he would be subject to the same penalties as a defendant who pleads guilty without a mental illness.

In June 2022, Earl moved back to Las Vegas from Montana, according to police reports and hospital records. When Earl was hospitalized at UMC shortly before the stabbings, a physician noted that he had reported being suicidal and hearing voices upon his arrival. Earl also reported that he wanted to stab himself and had “thoughts of harming others,” according to the physician.

Video surveillance showed Earl walking out of a hospital room at 1:50 a.m. on June 23, 2022, entering a room where Porfirio Rea was in restraints and stabbing Rea repeatedly in the neck. Earl then stabbed another patient who was lying on a gurney in the hallway.

Police said Earl claimed not to remember hiding a knife under his bedding upon arriving at the hospital.

Contact Peter S. Levitt at plevitt@reviewjournal.com.

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