Murder witnesses sought

Patrick Portalatin was followed by car to his grandmother’s Sacramento house, where he was shot and killed in the driveway last month. The man whom family and friends believe killed him has been arrested on unrelated charges, but with no witnesses to the murder, police don’t even consider him a suspect.

So the family is appealing to the community to help solve the case and bring a murderer to justice.

Portalatin, 24, graduated from Elk Grove High School and had been working for the state for the past four years. He was a sports fan who rooted for the St. Louis Rams and loved to play softball. His family said he was a good guy who stayed away from trouble, but trouble found him.

Trouble, according to his family, came in the form of a jealous ex-boyfriend of the then-girlfriend of Greg Ulibas, Portalatin’s cousin. Ulibas says he was shot at on October 26, although he was not hit.

Ulibas speculates that the perpetrators came after Portalatin on November 16 because he had aided Ulibas in an altercation earlier on the night of October 26. They possibly presumed Ulibas was already dead.

The family has been holding vigils at Portalatin’s gravesite at St. Mary’s Cemetery and his grandmother’s house. Last week, friends and family came together for a publicized vigil at his grandmother’s house in the hope that some witnesses would come forward. The family had heard rumors that there were witnesses to the shooting who were wary of coming forward to testify.

Although close to 100 friends and family members were there, no witnesses came forward. A small altar in the center of the gathering showed photographs of Patrick throughout his life: as a baby, with his mom and dad, with his brother and his two sisters and, more recently, with his girlfriend, Karina Ramos, and their daughter, Evangeline. A statue of the Virgin Mary stood watch over his altar surrounded by candles. People stood around reminiscing, hugging and crying.

“I’m just assuming that nobody has come forward because they were afraid,” said his sister, Nancy Portalatin. “And for three weeks the suspect was at large, so they had a right to be afraid. But now that the suspect is in custody, we’re trying to spread the word that it’s safe to speak up.”

Sheriff’s spokesman Sergeant James Lewis said that although the Portalatins may have a suspect in mind who is in custody, at this point the official status of the investigation is that a definite suspect has not been identified, nor has a motive for the killing.

The Portalatins, a large close-knit family, say they won’t give up their search until they find their witnesses. Those with information about the killing can call Nancy Portalatin at 217-2223, or the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.