Porter died of multiple blunt-force injuries; investigation continues

Updated: May 28, 2007, 3:50 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Villanova basketball star Howard Porter died from multiple blunt-force injuries, authorities said Monday, but police were still trying to figure out exactly what happened in the hours before he was found, bloodied and beaten, in a Minneapolis alley.

Porter was 58. He died Saturday night at North Memorial Medical Center, where he had been since he was found a week earlier in the alley.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office said the injuries caused his death, but no further information was released about the nature of those injuries or how they were inflicted.

St. Paul police Sgt. Paul Schnell said Monday the investigation was still active, but no arrests had been made. When asked whether Porter may have been kidnapped, Schnell said kidnapping was "a very, very viable consideration in this investigation."

Porter worked as a probation officer for Ramsey County. Authorities were looking into whether the attack had anything to do with his work.

"Let's hope that somebody's brought to justice for what they did," said Jack Kraft, Porter's coach at Villanova. "It's a little bit tough. There he is in the prime of life ... and I'm 86 and I'm able to do what I want to do -- and that's just a sad thing."

Porter went missing on the night of May 18 after leaving his St. Paul home. He was found in Minneapolis the next morning, without identification and badly beaten. Authorities didn't know at the time that the man brought to the hospital as an unknown assault victim was Porter, and he remained hospitalized until he died. His car was found miles away in St. Paul.

Porter grew up in Sarasota, Fla., leading his local high school to the state championship before a brilliant career at Villanova. From 1968-71, the 6-foot-8 Porter averaged 22.8 points and 14.8 rebounds and led the Wildcats to the 1971 NCAA title game, where they lost to UCLA.

He was voted the tournament's outstanding player, an honor later vacated because he had been dealing with an agent before the season ended. Villanova's 1971 runner-up finish also was vacated. The scandal tarnished his reputation in Philadelphia for a time, but the fences were eventually mended.

Kraft recalled how he recruited Porter from high school.

"We went down and we saw him play and talked to him and he was interested in us because of the program we had and he thought that he could be helpful -- which he certainly was," Kraft said. He said Porter played like a "freelancer" and Kraft changed his way of coaching to let Porter do his thing when he had the ball.

The school retired Porter's No. 54 jersey in 1997.

Porter learned plenty of lessons during his life. He was drafted 32nd overall by the Chicago Bulls in 1971, but his NBA career never fulfilled the promise he showed in college. Porter also played for Detroit and New York, but he began using drugs when his career flamed out.

"I took a ride with the devil," Porter told the Star Tribune in a 2001 interview. "And the devil picked me up and rolled me for a while. But I always knew, deep down inside, I felt God wasn't through with me yet."

By 1985, he was out of money, addicted to cocaine and sleeping on the couch at his mother's house in Florida, the newspaper reported.

He went to a drug treatment program in Center City, Minn., and decided to stay here. He became a probation officer for Ramsey County in 1995, where he supervised adults who had been released from prison or sentenced to probation. He oversaw violent and nonviolent offenders, making sure they followed the law, as well as terms of their release.

"He was doing so good, helping his fellow people that were in a little bit of trouble," Kraft said. "That's the irony of it all -- the fact that you're helping people and this happens.

"I hope they find the people that are responsible."

Services for Porter were pending.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press