Sword Death to Portland Owner in Slasher Mask Ruled Self-Defense

Catalina Gaitán / (TNS)

When Robert Bainter decided to move out of the four-bedroom Victorian house he shared in the Eliot neighborhood in early September, the 31-year-old tenant said he was certain the landlord would end up doing something terrible .

For weeks, the owner, Justin Valdivia, had harassed Bainter by text, phone and email, Bainter said. Other tenants, who rented rooms in the house individually in Valdivia, were also suspicious of him. Once, Valdivia attempted to enter the Northeast Rodney Avenue rental at 4 a.m. without permission.

“People were nervous and stayed up all night to make sure he didn’t come into the house,” Bainter said.

One of Valdivia’s four tenants, Stas Wallace, ended his lease Aug. 31 because he could no longer afford the $750 rent for his room. But he stayed in the house, surfing on the couch in the living room of the house courtesy of the tenants.

Within the month, the landlord would become Portland’s 69th homicide victim, killed after entering the home around 1 a.m. while wearing a slasher movie mask and carrying a hammer and a black-painted pellet gun to look like a gun, which he pointed at Wallace.

Fearing for his life, Wallace charged at Valdivia and stabbed him in the chest with a sword he had borrowed for protection, police and prosecutors later said.

In early November, Portland detectives and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office determined that Wallace had acted in self-defense and would not face any criminal charges. Wallace, through Bainter, declined to speak to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Valdivia, 46, started looking for a new tenant after Wallace ended his lease. On September 7, he showed someone new the house, and Bainter – who was sitting in the living room – said he urged the person not to rent there.

Valdivia, who lived with his wife in separate accommodation in the backyard of the property, heard the comment. He left the house and returned with a 4-inch knife, pulling it out of his pocket and hitting Bainter twice from 2 feet away, Bainter said.

Bainter, who works as a mental health worker, said he and a roommate called 911 that evening to report the incident, and a dispatcher told them to contact the non-emergency number. An operator told them that Valdivia had already called to accuse Bainter of threatening him with a knife, not the other way around.

Valdivia then emailed Bainter a photo of a handwritten eviction notice accusing Bainter of “perpetuating violent acts.” [and] threatening behavior and further, blaming me for exhibiting said behavior. Under Oregon law, that was not a valid notice, said Troy Pickard, a Portland attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law.

The next day, however, Valdivia reappeared outside the front door around 4 a.m., drunk, and used his key to attempt to enter the house. Someone inside blocked the door, Bainter said.

Worried for his safety, Bainter decided to move out early. Before leaving, he said he set a “Goonies-style trap” – a cup of silverware and change balanced on wooden planks leaning against the backdoor – to alert other tenants if Valdivia tried again. ‘go in to the house.

Valdivia became angry when he learned Wallace was sleeping in the living room, Bainter said.

What happened next comes from a memo from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office that Willamette Week first reported.

A clause in tenants’ tenancy agreements allowed each person to host one guest for up to a week. But they were uncomfortable. They installed a new noise trap on the back door, and one of the tenants let Wallace borrow a sword “for fear of Valdivia’s increasingly violent threats and behavior,” the memo says.

At around 1 a.m. on September 15, Valdivia used her backdoor key to enter the rental, police and prosecutors said.

Valdivia, wearing a blue Dickie jumpsuit and a mask of slasher movie character “Halloween” Michael Myers, ran from the backdoor to the living room, where Wallace was on the couch. Valdivia carried a hammer in her left hand and what appeared to be a handgun in her right, the memo states.

Valdivia pointed the gun – later determined to be a pellet gun – at Wallace and demanded that he hand over his cellphone, police and prosecutors said.

Wallace thought Valdivia wanted his phone because he recorded a video of Valdivia threatening the tenants, the memo states. Instead of reaching for his phone, however, Wallace picked up the sword. The two men struggled, according to the memo, and Wallace stabbed Valdivia in the chest.

One of the tenants then came out of his room and rushed into the kitchen to get some paper towels, which he pressed on Valdivia’s wound to stanch the bleeding. The couple called 911 and took turns performing chest compressions on Valdivia until paramedics arrived and pronounced him dead, the memo said.

According to the memo, prosecutors and detectives concluded the stabbing was self-defense and therefore not criminal.

By illegally entering the house with an alleged firearm and demanding Wallace’s cell phone, Valdivia gave Wallace reason to believe that Valdivia would use deadly physical force against him. The circumstances made the stabbing justifiable under Oregon law, the memo says.

Valdivia’s wife, Naomi, said Wallace harassed her husband, including writing a post on Craigslist alleging Valdivia was a sex offender who preyed on tenants, she said. Bainter said Wallace did not write the message, but did not say who did.

Justin Valdivia had entered the house that night to compel Wallace to delete the posts, which his wife called “defamatory”. Court records show Justin Valdivia was convicted of second degree sexual abuse in 1996.

Her intention was never to steal Wallace’s phone, she said.

Valdivia’s son, Daniel Valdivia, 27, said police and officials from the district attorney’s office told him at a Nov. 4 meeting that his father had lowered the pellet gun before Wallace pulled him down. charge, a detail not included in the memo. Officials also never told them there was a “struggle” between the two men, he said.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case through a spokesperson.

“Believe it or not, Justin didn’t come into the house to hurt or kill anyone,” Naomi Valdivia said.

Still, it’s generally a violation of Oregon law for a landlord to enter a tenant’s property without at least 24 hours’ notice, Pickard said.

Daniel Valdivia said his father entered the house to intimidate Wallace, not to rob the house or hurt anyone.

His dad was eccentric, funny and “much loved”, Daniel Valdivia said. “One of the smartest men I’ve ever met and probably the funniest,” he said. “It was kind of a one-guy riddle – he was yelling at you for not doing something right, but also hanging up people’s Christmas lights in the neighborhood.”

Until his death, he played drums in the Portland band Spirit Lake and was working on his first book, the family said.

“Even if he was wrong,” Daniel Valdivia said, “he knew what was good; it was just darkened. It wasn’t some weird owner with a Halloween mask, it was a human being.

All of Bainter’s former housemates have since moved on, and Wallace remains “traumatized” from the stabbings, Bainter said.

“It was not a malicious attack,” Bainter said, adding that Wallace is not a violent person. “He had a gun pointed at him, and if that’s not a moment where you feel like you can defend yourself, I don’t know what is.”

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