Prosecutors decide a Portland man committed no crime by killing his landlord with a sword

In a scene worthy of a horror movie, a man was left dead during a September dispute with his tenants in northeast Portland.

Justin Valdivia, 46, was fatally stabbed in the living room of a four-bedroom squatted home in Eliot’s neighborhood, prosecutors say, after sneaking into the home he owned dressed as Michael Myers, the slasher movie villain Halloween.

Last week, WW obtained a memo from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office substantiating prosecutors’ conclusion that the killing was self-defense.

The origins of the dispute that led to Valdivia’s death on September 15 are unclear. But the memo tells a bizarre story while explaining why prosecutors have refused to charge anyone involved.

Valdivia, the owner of the premises, lived with his wife in a recently built secondary residence at the back of the land. He rented the front house to four tenants, each paying $750 a month. The man who stabbed him was a former tenant who had just moved out and was now staying in the house as a guest, prosecutors said.

The relationship between Valdivia and her tenants had deteriorated in the weeks leading up to the murder. Valdivia had threatened them with a knife, according to police reports reviewed by prosecutors. In a separate incident, Valdivia attempted to break into the house while intoxicated at 4 a.m., according to the memo. One of the residents restrained him from inside.

The guest had filmed the incidents and feared Valdivia was trying to steal his phone and the videos on it, prosecutors said. Another tenant moved out in early September, fearing for his safety “due to the increasing behavior of Valdivia,” the memo said. The guest, however, remained.

But not without taking precautions. He kept a sword handy and set up a “makeshift alarm” by leaning a board against the back door and placing a shoebox on top so it “falls down and makes a lot of noise if the door was open,” prosecutors noted.

The sword he has tucked into the couch for easy access. The memo didn’t specify the type of sword, but bureau spokeswoman Elisabeth Shepard said it was a “saber.”

On September 15, the guest was watching YouTube in the living room. It was around 1 a.m. when he heard the shoebox crash to the ground.

Valdivia, disguised as Michael Myers, had entered through the backdoor using her key. He wore the iconic Myers mask and a “blue Dickie jumpsuit”.

In his left hand was a hammer. To his right, a handgun.

Valdivia walked over to the guest, who was still in the living room on the couch. Valdivia was blocking the door. There was nowhere to run, the memo says. The guest grabbed the sword.

“A struggle then ensued,” according to prosecutors. Guest stabbed Valdivia, retrieved her gun, and threw it out of reach. Valdivia fell to the ground, without reacting.

Another resident grabbed paper towels from the kitchen to stop Valdivia’s bleeding and called 911. The two took turns performing CPR until police arrived at 1:35 a.m. Paramedics pronounced Valdivia dead at the scene.

Near his body, investigators found a pellet gun painted black so that it “looked like a real firearm”.

Valdivia’s family disputes prosecutors’ characterization of the incident. Valdivia’s son, Daniel, said prosecutors told him in a Nov. 4 meeting that there had been no struggle before Valdivia’s murder and that Valdivia had lowered his gun before being stabbed.

Daniel Valdivia also took issue with prosecutors’ description of the room. He said there were several exits. He called the man an “illegal squatter” who provoked Valdivia into telling potential tenants on Craigslist not to rent from him.

Valdivia’s funeral was held in Phoenix. An obituary published last month in The Arizona Republic described Valdivia as a “lifetime musician and writer” who was known for his “movie star good looks” and “odious pranks”.

The detective and county attorney handling the case agreed that the killing was justified. Valdivia was committing a burglary by “wielding what appeared to be two dangerous and deadly weapons,” the memo said.

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