By Neal Putnam
A bisexual man who was convicted of killing Peter Bentz was sentenced Feb. 26, to 83 years and eight months in prison and it was revealed the gay victim’s skull has been recovered.
Since Bentz, 68, disappeared on Nov. 21, 2017, it was said his body was never found, but the judge lifted a gag order that barred the prosecutor and Bentz’s relatives from acknowledging that a skull was determined to be his through dental records.
“Rarely has this court seen a more diabolical crime,” said San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan Weber.
Brian Eleron Hancock, 49, said nothing before Weber imposed 25 years to life for the first-degree murder conviction that jurors determined on Jan. 27.
Weber added 25 years for Hancock’s arson conviction when he burned up his brother-in-law’s trailer in 1999. He got another 25 years for a 2003 residential burglary plus eight years and eight months for transportation of methamphetamine and another burglary.
Hancock testified at trial that Bentz was his sex partner and he told jurors Bentz told him he was going to Mexico for a vacation.
“You killed a man who had a loving family and how many friends came in here [at trial] because of what a decent man Peter Bentz was,” said Weber to Hancock.
Weber said Hancock’s crimes were “always about revenge” and noted that he had claimed he stabbed Bentz seven times because he thought Bentz had videotaped him having sex with another woman.
Weber said it was “doubtful that video ever existed,” but the motive to kill Bentz came from Hancock’s mind for revenge.
“Mr. Hancock, you deserve to never step outside a prison for the rest of your life,” said Weber.
Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Dort revealed in court that a biologist discovered the skull of Bentz in Campo in 2018, but it was not until the first week of trial in January that dental records confirmed it was his skull.
Weber excluded mention of the skull to the jury to ensure fairness to Hancock, said his attorney, Jimmy Rodriguez, who had already told jurors that Bentz may be alive and in Mexico.
Weber had issued a gag order upon the attorneys and victim’s survivors about the existence of the skull, but the gag order was lifted Feb. 26, at his sentencing.
Dort said the skull was found 500 feet from where a hatchet was discovered in Campo from previous law enforcement searches that included a cadaver dog. Dort said the skull was buried, but apparently dug up by coyotes. No other body parts were found.
Initially, investigators thought the skull was of a Hispanic male who was 30 to 50 years old, said Dort, but it was with the comparison of Bentz’s dental records that confirmed it was his.
Hancock’s phone was in the Campo area for 4 1/2 hours on Nov. 24, 2017, according to cell phone records cited by Dort. Bentz was last seen alive on Nov. 21, 2017, while leaving a gym on Midway Drive.
“It really does close a chapter,” said Dort about the skull’s discovery.
Dort said Hancock “chopped up his body and took it to the hills of Campo.” He said Hancock used Bentz’s credit cards “to purchase his own dismembering equipment.”
Kirk Bentz, the victim’s brother, said he thought the sentence handed down was “true and just.”
“He should never set foot outside prison,” said Bentz. “He’ll die in prison.”
Weber told Hancock he was “terrorizing your own wife” with “abusive calls” before his arrest and later in jail. He was married to Angelina Hancock for 20 years, but they are now divorced.
Investigators found Bentz’s blood in 17 locations throughout his Greene Street apartment. His identification and other papers were found scattered near a freeway, and his car was discovered in Mira Mesa with the keys in the ignition.
Bentz’s brother filed a missing person’s report after he did not show up for Thanksgiving at their San Pedro home. “We will forever associate Thanksgiving with Peter’s murder,” said Kirk Bentz in court.
Kirk Bentz said once the skull is released back to the family, they would cremate it and scatter the remains at beaches and at Yosemite, where he liked to vacation.
Gilda Baslee, a friend of Peter Bentz, asked Hancock in a letter read out loud in court to “do one decent thing and reveal where you buried Peter.”
Hancock received credits for 629 days spent in jail since his arrest.