By Neal Putnam
A gay man was murdered in his Ocean Beach apartment by a sex partner who was angry that the man videotaped him having sex with a woman, a prosecutor has told a jury.
The body of Peter Bentz, 68, has not been found, but his blood was found in 17 locations in his Greene Street apartment after a police cadaver dog alerted investigators to it despite someone cleaning the apartment, said a prosecutor.
Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Dort told a jury Jan. 7 he will ask them to convict Brian Eleron Hancock, 49, an electrician from National City, of first-degree murder. San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan Weber is presiding.
Hancock’s attorney, Jimmy Rodriguez, told jurors that Bentz met Hancock when he hired him to do electrical work and they had a consensual sexual relationship even though Hancock is married to a woman.
“To this day, no one knows what happened to Mr. Bentz,” said Rodriguez, who said Bentz had a habit of inviting strangers to his apartment.
The defense attorney told jurors to focus on the changing stories of two women including Hancock’s own wife. Both women have signed cooperation agreements with the DA’s office and given immunity.
“Mr. Hancock may be many things, but he is not a murderer. He may be a bad husband, but he is not a killer,” said Rodriguez, who said he will ask for an acquittal.
Dort told the 7-woman, 5-man jury that Bentz was last seen alive on Nov. 20, 2017, when a security camera showed him leaving a gym. Dort said his belongings were found strewn near a freeway that included a napkin with Bentz’s blood and Hancock’s DNA on it.
Hancock used Bentz’s credit cards to buy bleach, a shovel, dolly, a table saw and he used Bentz’s 2006 Toyota Highlander days after Bentz vanished, said Dort.
Four days before Bentz disappeared, Hancock brought over a woman who watched the two men have sex, said the prosecutor. The woman, Rosa Hammond, then had sex with Hancock. Bentz may have videotaped it and posted it online, said Dort.
This made Hancock very angry and he told a witness that he stabbed Bentz seven times, said Dort, who quoted Hancock as saying “it was difficult, he was a big guy.”
Bentz’s phone pinged at Hancock’s home after Bentz disappeared, and it also pinged for four hours in Campo, where Bentz is believed buried, said Dort. The phone never registered a location afterwards.
Hancock told a witness he was “worried he didn’t bury him deep enough (as) someone would find him,” said Dort. “The body is just too heavy,” Dort quoted Hancock as telling his wife.
Police and investigators searched sites in Campo but couldn’t find a body.
Rodriguez said Hancock and Bentz shared “a mutual vice — drugs,” and his client supplied Bentz with drugs.
Rodriguez said Hancock came over to Bentz’s home and found him making a sex video with three other men. Hancock wanted to be part of the video for cash, and Bentz paid him by giving him his car keys and credit cards, said Rodriguez.
Kirk Bentz, the victim’s younger brother, testified as the first witness, saying he noticed his brother’s computer, monitor, all camera and video equipment, and all jewelry were missing from his apartment.
“I used to love Brian,” said Rosa Hammond, who said he was her ex-boyfriend.
Hammond testified Jan. 9 she went with Hancock to Bentz’ apartment and she watched “Peter and Brian…having sex on the couch.” She said she had sex with Hancock afterwards, and wondered if Bentz had videotaped them.
Hammond said a stranger on Facebook sent her a video that she could not open, saying she was featured on the video. She said she alerted Hancock. She also said she saw Hancock steal a credit card from Bentz’s wallet while he was in the bathroom.
The trial is estimated to last until Jan. 29. Hancock has pleaded not guilty and he remains in jail on $2 million bail.