Juror convicted a man of first-degree murder Monday for the fatal stabbing of an Ocean Beach resident, though his body remains missing.
They found Brian Eleron Hancock of National City, 49, guilty of murdering Peter Bentz, 68. Bentz died in his apartment on Nov. 21, 2017.
Deputy District Attorney Jeff Dort alleged that Hancock killed Bentz over a compromising video.
He said Hancock believed Bentz posted a video online of him having sex with a woman. No such video has ever surfaced.
Hancock testified to having sex with Bentz, then the woman, at Bentz’s apartment. Trial testimony indicated Hancock believed he and the woman may have been surreptitiously recorded by Bentz.
After the killing, prosecutors say the defendant stole Bentz’s computer, presumably to dispose of the video. He spent the next few days purchasing bleach, a shovel, a table saw, a mattock, and a rug, all with Bentz’s credit card.
He obtained the items at different stores, while driving Bentz’s car, according to the prosecutor.
Dort alleged that Hancock attempted to scrub the crime scene of evidence. A police cadaver dog, though, alerted officers to blood on a carpet in the apartment. Forensics later matched the blood to Bentz.
Prosecutors believe Hancock buried Bentz’s body somewhere in Campo. A search of the area never turned up traces of the victim.
Hancock, who also has convictions for arson, burglary and drug possession, is slated to be sentenced Feb. 26.
Hancock’s wife, Angelina, testified her husband told her he killed Bentz and had trouble moving his body.
Recorded jail calls played during the trial capture Hancock chastising his spouse for talking with police. He asked her, “Did you tell them where?” though they discussed no specific details regarding Bentz’s death.
Defense attorney Jimmy Rodriguez alleged that Hancock’s wife, who was given immunity for her testimony, accused her husband after intense pressure from detectives. He also told jurors that she felt extremely hurt by the defendant’s numerous extramarital affairs.
He said Hancock’s anger in the jail calls was related to other unrelated criminal cases.
Another acquaintance testified Hancock told her that he stabbed Bentz seven times because of the sex tape. Rodriguez told jurors that the witness changed her story several times and cooperated with law enforcement for leniency regarding her own criminal cases.
The witness initially testified that Hancock had told her he was going to “get” Bentz. She later revised her testimony to say Hancock used the word “kill” instead.
Bentz’s family members reported him missing after he failed to show up for Thanksgiving dinner at his brother’s San Pedro home. He also missed subsequent engagements with friends, and his phone went unused after Nov. 21, Dort said.
Hancock’s cell phone activity, however, indicated that he was near Bentz’s home on the afternoon of Nov. 21, the prosecutor said. Hancock texted Bentz at around 2 p.m. that afternoon, asking if he could come over.
Hancock purchased a new cell phone the following day. Bentz’s cell phone last pinged off a cell tower near Hancock’s home in National City, Dort said.
During the initial search for Bentz, a license plate reader located his car in Logan Heights on Nov. 25. Officers sent to the area did not find it, but they did find his wallet, sans credit cards, as well as his driver’s license, receipts and other property of his strewn about the location.
A bloody napkin or paper towel found in the pile of items carried DNA from both Bentz and Hancock, according to the prosecutor. He alleged Hancock used it to mop up the crime scene.
Rodriguez said the DNA evidence was not as airtight as it seemed. Hancock’s frequent visits to Bentz’s apartment more reasonably explained the presence of the suspect’s DNA.
Investigators discovered Bentz’s car in Mira Mesa on Dec. 12.
Hancock, who testified in his own defense, said Bentz paid him for sex on some occasions. On the day he went missing, he said the victim paid him $3,000 to appear in a sex video with him and three other men.
He gave Hancock $600 in cash, then lent him his credit cards to cover the other $2,400, the defendant testified.
Bentz also lent Hancock his car because the brakes on his own car were failing, Hancock testified.
Bentz’s phone was tracked with Hancock, the defendant said, because the victim accidentally left his cell phone in Hancock’s truck the night of Nov. 21. He testified that he purchased a new phone in an attempt to save money by switching cell service providers.
Cell phone data tracked Hancock’s new phone to Campo during a four-hour period when prosecutors believe he buried Bentz’s body. Hancock testified that he was at the Golden Acorn Casino during that time. The jurors heard no evidence confirming his presence at the casino.
Hancock also testified that shortly before Bentz disappeared, he told Hancock he would attend his brother’s Thanksgiving dinner. He instead planned on going on a vacation to Mexico.
– City News Service