Delta Junction man sentenced in murder case

Posted: Wednesday, October 25, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A Delta Junction man was sentenced to 75 years in jail Tuesday for his role in the murder of an elderly business partner.

Todd Porterfield, 38, was convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the death of Walter Roll last year.

Superior Court Judge Charles Pengilly added 20 years for Porterfield's conviction on a first-degree arson charge for starting the fire that led to Roll's death and burned down his cabin. The sentences will be served concurrently and Porterfield will eligible for parole in about 50 years.

Porterfield's wife, Michele, is awaiting sentencing after conviction on the same charges.

Roll, 79, owner of the Bay Bar, let the Porterfields live in a cabin he owned. He also financed the purchase and refurbishing of another tavern with the couple.

On March 21, 1999, the trio spent the night sharing drinks and playing dominoes until Roll retired to bed. As Roll slept, Todd Porterfield set a towel that hung above the stove on fire.

The cabin burned. An autopsy revealed that Roll died of smoke inhalation and that he had burns over 33 percent of his body.

Prosecutor Pat Doogan said the Porterfield's motive was money and that they would have been enriched by a few thousand dollars by Roll's death.

Defense attorney Tracy Shikles said the Porterfields stood to gain more if Roll remained alive because of their business arrangements. She said their motive was more akin to assisted suicide, an act of pity for an elderly man who complained of the rigors of old age.

Pengilly said he refrained from imposing the maximum sentence because the motive was not clear.

''I'm unable to identify any motive to my satisfaction as the one that motivated the killing,'' Pengilly said. ''I'm not sure that cuts either way in Mr. Porterfield's favor.''

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