Man charged with murder for beating death in Wasilla

Tegan Hanlon

A man was charged this week with first-degree murder for the beating death of another man in Wasilla on Oct. 1, according to documents filed in state court in Palmer.

John R. Martin, 47, was arrested Saturday in connection with the death of Russell Metcalf, 60.

Wasilla police found Metcalf's body in a camper behind the Mug-Shot Saloon, 251 W. Parks Highway, according to Martin's charging document. They arrested and charged Martin shortly after discovering the body.

Metcalf had "substantial trauma to his head" and had been dead for at least two days, according to an arrest affidavit filed by Officer Daniel Bennett with the Wasilla Police Department.

Soon after finding the body, police saw Martin walking up the road and stopped him at a Holiday gas station. Martin admitted to killing Metcalf, the charging document said. Martin also said he and Metcalf "were best friends."

Wasilla Police Chief Gene Belden said Martin is "pretty well-known around here" but has not been arrested previously for a felony. Both men were considered homeless, he said.

Martin told police that on Oct. 1 he met Metcalf at the saloon about 7 p.m. Metcalf asked Martin to help him talk to the Mug-Shot owner about allowing the camper to remain on the property, but Martin declined.

The camper has been behind the saloon for more than a year and there had been no problems with it, Belden said. He said both men had been living in the camper at the time of the crime.

"No one claims it. It just sets there and the homeless kind of live in it ... (to) get out of the weather," he said.

Martin said he returned to the camper and heard someone walking behind him. He turned around and was hit in the mouth by Metcalf, according to the affidavit.

Martin described "blacking out," the affidavit said. "When he regained his senses, he was standing over Metcalf with his arm drawn back like he was going to strike him."

Martin said he "used his hands and feet to assault Metcalf" but could not provide any other details about the fight, the court document said.

Martin said Metcalf was on the ground, bleeding and still alive when the altercation ended, the affidavit said.

Martin said he helped Metcalf into the camper, laid him on the bed and left for a few minutes to get him water, the affidavit said. When he returned to the camper, Metcalf was dead and no longer bleeding, Metcalf told police.

Martin said his clothes were covered in blood. He panicked, put a blanket over Metcalf and left the camper.

On Friday, Martin put his shirt and pants in a dumpster "because he thought he could get away with the crime," according to the affidavit.

Martin led police back to the dumpster, where the bloody clothes were recovered. He said Metcalf's DNA would still be on his hands because he had not showered since the incident, the affidavit said.

Bill Rosenlof, 58, had recently rented a room to Metcalf in Palmer.

"He seemed OK," Rosenlof said. "He just seemed like a mellow, old grandpa."

He said he saw saw Metcalf on Saturday morning, he remembered the date because Oct. 1 was when rent was due. Metcalf had just moved in with his dog the day before after seeing an advertisement for the room at a local grocery store.

Metcalf said he had to run errands and would be gone all day, Rosenlof said. Rosenlof just learned of Metcalf's death on Tuesday.

"I've got all of his things here and we've got his dog," Rosenlof said.

Martin is being held at the Mat-Su Pre-Trial facility on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and tampering with evidence, according to his charging document. His bail is set at $50,000.

Reach Tegan Hanlon at or 257-4589.