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Mother of slain man asks prosecutors to drop death penalty

Prosecutors withdrew the death penalty Monday for a man convicted of fatally shooting of Mike Portaro, 22, outside a tavern in the northwest valley after Portaro’s mother said she did not want to see another death.

Brandon Hill was convicted last week in the March 2011 slaying outside the Tenaya Creek Brewery at 3101 N. Tenaya Way. Portaro, a 2006 graduate of Faith Lutheran Junior/Senior High School, was at the bar’s parking lot selling tickets to a show at Daddy Mac’s restaurant in Henderson, where his hip-hop group, Ekoh, was to perform.

On Monday, Cynthia Portaro approached prosecutors, who were seeking capital punishment from a jury, and said she did not want to see Hill sentenced to death. In turn, a judge is expected to decide Hill’s fate, and prosecutors said they plan to ask for life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“I personally didn’t want to see another person die,” Portaro said afterward and then hugged members of Hill’s family.

Hill had apologized to the victim’s family in court after the jury found him guilty of first-degree murder, robbery with use of a deadly weapon and grand larceny auto.

“I got what I wanted — an apology from Brandon,” Cynthia Portaro said. “I felt a sense of relief that there is no hatred, animosity, anger. Because if you live in Christ, you cannot live with those things.”

His defense lawyer, Joseph Abood, said he was surprised at how things played out in court Monday.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “I’m completely satisfied with the outcome. And I’m just happy that the healing for everybody can start today. … He’s matured a lot since this killing, and I’m glad he’s finally able to recognize that he made a grave error and to know that he needs to apologize.”

Five months after Mike Portaro died, his sister Christina Portaro was killed in an ATV crash. Their father,Cynthia Portaro’s husband, died on Thanksgiving last year.

At Hill’s trial, prosecutors showed jurors surveillance video from the brew pub’s parking lot that appeared to show a young man wearing a hooded sweat shirt and white shoes and smoking a cigarette.

They also presented evidence that tied Hill directly to Mike Portaro’s slaying: a cigarette found outside the bar that had Hill’s DNA, Portaro’s blood on Hill’s shoes, the gun used in the slaying that was recovered near Hill during an April arrest and forensic evidence found inside Portaro’s car, which was stolen the night he was killed.

After her son was slain, Cynthia Portaro started Mourning Hope of Las Vegas, a support group to help herself and others cope with the loss of loved ones. The faith-based group meets at the International Church of Las Vegas, 8100 Westcliff Drive.

“I just help other families through trauma, give them hope, give them tools, guidance, comfort, love, support, knowing that if they can see me being able to do it, they can do it, too,” Portaro said. “It helps me to help others. I feel compassion for people who are going through it, the beginning stages of the journey. What I like to say is: how to get through something you will never get over. You don’t get over the tragic death or the loss of a loved one. But you can get through it with hope and faith in Christ.”

Contact reporter David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker

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