Convicted murderer arrested for threat
A man convicted of murder in Aspen 15 years ago was back in Pitkin County Jail Friday after allegedly threatening another man with a knife.
Aspen police arrested Keith Porter, 53, on charges of felony menacing, aggravated intimidation of a witness and tampering with physical evidence, according to an arrest affidavit filed with 9th Judicial District Court.
“Basically he held a knife to the throat of the victim,” said Aspen Police Patrol Supervisor Richard Pryor. “The victim wasn’t physically injured.”
Evidence indicates Porter did cut himself on the hand during the incident. The altercation took place at about 2:15 a.m. Friday near Rubey Park. Porter is being held in Pitkin County Jail on $100,000 bond.
Porter was convicted in March 1986 of the murder of Aspenite Michael Hernstadt. In 1984, he pumped 20 bullets from an automatic rifle into Hernstadt’s body as the man sat in a friend’s car.
The murder took place after an all-night cocaine party attended by Hernstadt, Porter and others.
Porter, who owned a head shop in Aspen at the time, reached a plea bargain with the district attorney’s office right before he was supposed to go to trial in 1986. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and crime of violence. In return, he received an 11-year term rather than a life sentence or a death sentence.
With credit for time served in the local jail, Porter was released in 1995 and returned to Aspen. Court officials said he was not on parole when he was arrested Friday.
In this latest incident, a witness called police to report that a man named “Keith” had become upset while talking to another man on a bench near the bus station.
“Keith” allegedly told the other man he was going to kill him, pulled a knife and held it to the other man’s throat.
The witness told police that “Keith” asked the other man, “do you want to die?” and also allegedly noted that he had been in Vietnam and had “killed someone here before,” the arrest affidavit said.
Police Officer Jim Crowley said from the description of the man with the knife, he suspected it was Keith Porter.
Another officer questioned the victim and was told that he was sitting on a bench, waiting for a bus when he was approached by a man investigators believe was Porter.
The man told police that Porter came to him and claimed to have been a sniper in the U.S. Army. There was a brief argument, then Porter pulled the knife and stuck it to the man’s throat, the arrest affidavit said.
The victim said he begged for his life and Porter responded that if he called police, Porter would find him and kill him, reports said.
As officers began looking for Porter, he called the police department and said he wanted to share his side of the story. Porter told Officer Crowley that he had an “altercation with a punk.”
“Porter told your Affiant [Crowley] that Porter could not go back to jail and that the police would have to kill him,” the affidavit said. “Porter told your Affiant that `the guy talked too much, shit I overreacted, but I caught myself in the middle of killing this guy.’ “
Porter also recounted how the alleged victim “turned into the Viet Cong and I almost killed him.”
Porter eventually told police that he was calling from his home at the Aspen Country Inn. That’s the senior housing project west of Aspen. Porter went with Crowley to Aspen Valley Hospital to be treated, then commented that he had gotten rid of the knife, the officer’s report said.
Porter was arrested after his hand was treated, and he was taken to the jail.
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With a current backlog of 147 jury trials in the three-county judicial district, and only one felony and one misdemeanor trial allowed at a time, the need for more staffing is imperative said Ninth District Attorney Jeff Cheney.