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Cynthia Portaro was on her way to be face-to-face with her son’s killer at a courthouse when she made a decision that would shock everyone.

“It was the morning of the sentencing,” the Las Vegas mother recalled to Fox News Digital. “I just heard the voice of God telling me to forgive him. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, or even handle that, but I wanted to be obedient.

“Then I heard, ‘Take away the death penalty,’” she said. “I was like, ‘What? I can’t do that.’ But I just heard that voice, ‘Go and do it.’”


Portaro is speaking out about her son’s fatal shooting in Oxygen’s true-crime series “Sin City Murders.” The show recounts chilling homicide cases that “have haunted the glamorous strip and vast desert of Las Vegas.”

“My faith has kept me strong,” the former interior designer said. “I want to show people that I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. I don’t know your faith, but I know mine. It’s not a weakness, but a humbleness.”

Michael “Mikey” Portaro, an aspiring hip-hop artist, was killed outside a pub in 2011. He was 22. He was shot several times, including in the head. According to investigators, cash was found on the ground, and Michael’s cellphone was still on him.

Michael Portaro with his friend in matching outfits

“There’s not a person in this town that didn’t like or love my son,” said the mother of five while fighting back tears. “He was funny, kind-hearted, intelligent and just very loving to people. No matter their status, he would always defend anybody who was bullied in school. He was an amazing athlete, a good student — just an all-around nice guy.”

Portaro still vividly recalls the last time she spoke to her son.

“Mike and I worked together,” she explained. “I remember he was going to go out and sell tickets for his concert. He asked me if he could leave early. … I said, ‘Of course. Be careful out there. Have fun, and I’ll see you at home.’ … He said, ‘Thanks mom. You’re the best. I love you.’


Cynthia Portaro embracing her son Michael in matching red tank tops

“That was the last conversation we had,” she said.

Police found a cigarette butt under Michael’s body. However, his gray 2006 Nissan Altima was missing. When investigators reviewed nearby security cameras, they saw Michael pulling into the bar parking lot, getting out of his car and standing near his vehicle. It was then that another car pulled in. Michael walked over to it and leaned into the passenger side window.

At first, investigators suspected that a drug deal was taking place. However, there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support that claim. Portaro’s account of her son selling concert tickets also checked out. Michael’s autopsy showed no signs of drugs or alcohol in his system.

Camera footage of Michael Portaros killer

But it didn’t take long for the police to find the killer. The video footage also showed a man whose face was covered. There seemed to be a cigarette hanging from his mouth. He approached Michael and a struggle ensued. Michael was then seen on the ground as a car sped away.

The Portaro family offered a $30,000 reward for the arrest and capture of Michael’s killer. According to the episode, an anonymous tip came in, urging police to look into Brandon J. Hill. He had recently been arrested for carrying a concealed gun.

Hill was tracked down, and his gun was seized as evidence. Ballistic analysis showed the 22-year-old’s weapon, a revolver, matched the one that fired the bullets that killed Michael. Hill denied any involvement in Michael’s murder.


Crime scene photo of Brandon Hills revolver

The tragedy in the Portaro household wasn’t over.

In 2011, months after Michael’s death, Portaro’s daughter Christina was killed in an ATV accident. She was 16. In 2012, Portaro was diagnosed with cancer, followed by her husband months later. He died in 2014 at age 61.

“When I was diagnosed with cancer, the doctor said I had six months to live,” said Portaro. “I said, ‘I don’t care. You may be my doctor, but you’re not my physician.’ … I wasn’t going to let this end me.”

Michael Portaro embracing his sister

“I do believe in doctors, I believe in medicine,” she added. “But I also believe in God. I believe he created things to help us battle any kind of illness. Some people live and some people die, I know that. But I also knew I was not going to die. I was not going to allow my other three surviving children to lose another loved one.”

An analysis proved that the DNA found on the cigarette from the crime scene matched Hill’s. Blood discovered on his shoes also matched Michael’s. He was arrested for murder.

It wouldn’t be until Feb. 20, 2015, that a jury found Hill guilty. The death penalty was on the table.


Michael Portaro with his family

“When I was sitting in that courtroom, I saw a broken mother beside me,” Portaro recalled, referring to Hill’s mother. “I remember his cousin came up to me and said, ‘Mrs. Portaro, I’m so sorry for what happened. I want you to know that my family has been praying for you. If my cousin did what he did, just know that we don’t hate you. We don’t have anything against you.’

“It softened my heart,” she admitted. “Here were two families hurting. … And the truth is, I don’t believe in anybody having the right to take a life except God. I asked for the death penalty to be taken away. I know the district attorney thought I was crazy. But I felt the power of God’s love. Here were two families divided. … We were all hurting. Death has already taken too much from us.”

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Hill was sentenced to 28 years to life behind bars.

Michael Portaro performing on stage

Hill apologized to Portaro after the sentencing.

“Is he sitting in prison being remorseful? I don’t know,” said Portaro. “And I don’t want to know. He has his life in prison. I have my life out of prison, but I don’t have my son here because of his actions. He has the chance to be a model prisoner. He has the chance to go to school and develop a life for himself, whether he’s in or out of prison. Does he have a chance at parole? I don’t know. He’ll be in his 50s in 28 years. If that happens, God bless him.”

Today, Portaro is cancer-free. She’s also a life coach for those who are struggling with grief. She also wrote a book, “Beyond the Unthinkable.”


Michael Portaro sitting next to a football

According to Oxygen, Portaro is active in the Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty. She hopes that judges will be tougher on criminals and keep them behind bars.

“I remember how my kids and my husband lived their lives here on Earth,” Portaro reflected. “It was a life of love. And when a loved one dies, they shouldn’t be forgotten. So, how can I create something that lives through me, that helps keep that memory alive? That’s what’s been in my heart, my memories of them. And I do believe reform is possible. Reform can happen.”

New episodes of “Sin City Murders” air on Oxygen on Sundays at 7 p.m.

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