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Wasilla man beat friend to death behind Mug-Shot Saloon, charges say

Casey Grove

A Wasilla man is in jail on murder charges after he allegedly beat his friend to death Oct. 1 inside a motorhome behind the Mug-Shot Saloon. Police charged John R. Martin, 47, with killing Russell Metcalf, 60, whom Martin described as his best friend, according to the charges against him.

It was not until Oct. 5 that someone found Metcalf's body in the 1980s-era motorhome in the parking lot of the Parks Highway bar. Metcalf had "substantial trauma" to his head, Wasilla police officer Daniel Bennett wrote in the charges.

A mutual acquaintance of the two men told Bennett that Martin had admitted to the murder, and Bennett found Martin later at a Holiday gas station. According to Bennett's account in the charges, this is what happened next:

Martin said he met Metcalf at the Mug-Shot about 7 p.m. Oct. 1, and Metcalf wanted him to come inside to talk to the bar's owner about extending Martin's stay in the parking lot. Martin said he decided not to go inside, but when he started to go into the motorhome, he heard someone coming behind him. It was Metcalf, he said.

"He turned and was struck in the mouth by Metcalf's fist," the officer wrote. "He said he didn't know why he was hit."

Martin said he and Metcalf were best friends and did not have any kind of dispute. After getting hit, Martin said he blacked out. He woke up with his arm cocked back like he was going to hit Metcalf, he said.

Martin said he had used his hands and feet to assault Metcalf and said that he asked Metcalf, who was on the floor bleeding, what had happened. Metcalf reportedly said he had hit Martin. Martin claimed that he then helped the injured man into bed and went to get him some water.

When he returned, Martin found Metcalf dead, he said. Martin said he panicked, covered the body with a blanket and left. "He said his clothes were covered with blood."

Three days later, Martin ditched his clothes in a garbage bin because "he thought he could get away with the crime."

Police jailed Martin in Palmer.

Contact Casey Grove at casey(at)alaskadispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter @kcgrove.