Minneapolis detectives arrested a suspect on charges that he killed a 58-year-old man more than three years ago over an unpaid drug debt, authorities said.

Marvin Washington, 50, is accused of beating Michael “Sonny” Portlance to death and dumping his body near his south Minneapolis apartment. Washington was charged Thursday with second-degree murder.

On the morning of Oct. 4, 2013, Portlance’s naked body was discovered near a fence in the 2600 block of Nicollet Avenue S. by several people who were sifting through dumpsters for scrap metal, said Sgt. Chris Karakostas, a detective in the department’s cold case unit.

Medical examiners at the time concluded that he had died from blunt force trauma to the head.

The following week, police issued a news release seeking the public’s help in finding out his last known whereabouts, asking anyone who knew his acquaintances or recent roommates to come forward. Detectives also reviewed surveillance footage from nearby businesses that showed a pair of individuals wheeling a garbage can near the dumpster on the morning of the murder, the complaint said.

But no new leads materialized and the case sat cold.

According to the criminal complaint, the night before his death, Portlance accompanied a group of people to Washington’s apartment across the street from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where they smoked crack cocaine. Washington flew into a rage when Portlance admitted that he couldn’t pay him for the drugs and began punching and kicking the man, the complaint said. Several witnesses later told police that the beating left Portlance unconscious.

The complaint says that he got a garbage can, stuffed Portlance’s naked body inside and left it near a dumpster.

The breakthrough came last month when police received a tip identifying Washington as a suspect. Karakostas tracked down several witnesses who said that Washington had attacked Portlance and disposed of his body, the complaint said.

Washington was later arrested but denied any involvement in the slaying, the complaint said. He is jailed in lieu of $1 million bail. His first court appearance is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday.

 

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