Brother of man who died mysteriously in 2015 discusses recent indictment of murder suspect
The brother of a Gresham man who died mysteriously more than two years ago opened up to KATU about the case after police announced a suspect was indicted for murder.
Oregon State Police (OSP) said the suspect, Avonte Armstead, 22, was found driving the car the victim drove the day before his body was discovered at the base of a cliff at Rocky Butte in Northeast Portland.
Near the body of the victim, Irvin Batalla, 22, investigators said they found a lanyard belonging to him with a house key and an electronic fob for a car attached to it, but no car key.
"It's extremely difficult in even thinking back to that moment," Manny Batalla, Irvin's older brother, told KATU on Thursday regarding Irvin's death. "You're just in disbelief and you dread having to be the person to tell your mother that."
In July of 2015, Manny said Irvin went missing for two days.
"He didn't respond to my mom's text messages, which was uncommon for him," Manny explained. "And my mom got worried, as any mother would, and we filed a missing person's report."
Manny said soon after OSP told him they found the car Irvin regularly drove in Lane County and said Armstead had crashed it.
Troopers said Armstead was with two other people.
He was cited for charges related to the crash and arrested on a warrant in a separate case.
The day after the car was found Manny got horrible news.
"We received a phone call from the medical examiner's office letting us know that Irvin had passed away and his body had been found at the bottom of Rocky Butte," Manny said.
The medical examiner's report listed the cause of death as "blunt force injuries" and said drugs were in Irvin's system.
But the manner of death -- how he fell -- was listed as "undetermined."
On Wednesday, Portland police dropped a bombshell, announcing a Multnomah County grand jury had indicted Armstead for murder on Sept. 14.
After hiring multiple lawyers and private investigators to look into the case Manny said he's relieved.
"We're just grateful that law enforcement has reached this point," Manny explained. "Would I have liked to have seen things move faster? Absolutely. There's no argument about that but again I'm just happy that progress is being made now."
Neither Portland police nor the Multnomah County District Attorney's office would say why it took more than two years for Armstead to face charges in the case.
And they would not say what evidence the grand jury cited to reach an indictment.
Last spring Irvin's ex-girlfriend, Karina, told KATU Irvin knew Armstead.
"He was definitely a new person in his life," said Karina, who did not want to publicly share her last name. "I didn't feel comfortable him being around him. I did warn Irvin too, you know, maybe back away from him a little bit."
Armstead has a lengthy criminal record, including convictions for theft, trespassing and sex abuse.
Since May of last year, he's been serving prison time in Nevada in a drug-dealing case and is awaiting extradition to Oregon.