A gay man with a history of domestic violence has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the beating death of his boyfriend in 2021 in a motel room.
Ryan Edward Breeland, 43, is expected to receive 30 years to life in state prison for killing Kenneth Banks, 32, who was found dead in a motel in downtown San Diego on June 9, 2021.
Sadly, Breeland himself predicted to the victim this was going to happen. And the victim didn’t take his warning seriously, according to testimony from Breeland’s preliminary hearing in November of 2022.
In a recorded phone call from jail after Breeland was arrested for hurting Banks, Breeland told Banks “the only way out is the graveyard.”
Banks had just told him that he wanted to end their relationship. But Breeland replied, “No, that’s not what will happen,” and then predicted Banks will die from his hand, according to testimony from a detective at Breeland’s preliminary hearing.
The tapes of the conversations were played in court. Banks never responded to Breeland’s chilling words as if he believed them. He ended each conversation with Breeland with saying “I love you.”
Banks probably did love Breeland, but he didn’t know how to stay away from him. The couple lived in a variety of motels, and several of them barred them from returning because of their loud arguments and complaints from other tenants, according to testimony.
Breeland also pleaded guilty to inflicting corporal injury to Banks with a knife, which was a prior domestic assault and to committing a prior sex crime with a minor in South Carolina.
Deputy District Attorney Taren Brast said Breeland would face 15 years to life for the murder plus 15 years for the other crimes to total 30 years to life.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Rachel Cano set sentencing for May 17. Breeland remains in jail without bail.
A motel worker found Banks’ body in bed, covered with a sheet, and she ran from the room, thinking she might throw up. Dorothy Sanchez testified she thought Banks was asleep and was trying to wake him up only to find his body was “completely stiff with a bruised face.”
A detective testified Banks told her Breeland hit him with a chair, punched, and stabbed him during an argument.
The cause of death was blunt force head trauma, according to a deputy medical examiner, who showed the upper body on a large screen in court. Breeland looked up just once to view his partner’s injuries on the screen and looked down for the rest of the hearing.
It is possible Breeland has regrets. The proposed sentence gives him a lot of time to think about that.