A murder trial began Tuesday for a man accused of killing an Ocean Beach resident who went missing in 2017 and whose body has was never found.
A prosecutor told a San Diego Superior Court jury that Peter Bentz was killed by the defendant, who was in a rage over a sex tape possibly posted online.
A defense attorney, however, told jurors,”We still don’t know what happened to Peter Bentz” and that, while his client was a drug addict and an unfaithful husband who made sex videos, “that doesn’t add up to murder.”
Brian Eleron Hancock, 49, is suspected of stabbing 69-year-old Bentz to death on Nov. 21, 2017, stealing his computer, video camera and other items and dumping the body somewhere in the rural Campo area.
The victim’s brother, Kirk Bentz of San Pedro, reported him missing when he failed to turn up two days later for Thanksgiving dinner. San Diego police investigated the matter as a missing person, but later turned the case over to homicide investigators.
An organization called Cal Advocates for the Missing posted a flyer about Bentz on Facebook about a month after he was last seen.
Attorneys gave opening statements to jurors Tuesday afternoon in a trial being heard by Judge Joan Weber in downtown San Diego. She previously dismissed a special-circumstance allegation that Bentz was murdered during a robbery, ruling that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support the allegation.
Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Dort said Hancock admitted the slaying to his wife, telling her, “I stabbed him. It was difficult. He was a big guy. I had to stab him like seven times.”
Hancock also allegedly told Angelina Hancock that he had left “him” near the Golden Acorn Casino near Campo, but was worried because the grave was shallow and there were coyotes around.
On Nov. 17, 2017, the prosecutor said, Hancock took a woman to Bentz’s apartment, and they took turns having sex together, first the men, then Hancock and the woman. When the woman got a Facebook message the next day referring to a sex video of her, she and Hancock worried that Bentz had recorded them and posted the video online, Dort said.
Hancock told the woman he would talk to Bentz about it, and later told her, “I took care of it. I fixed it,” Dort said.
He said authorities knew Bentz was still alive on Nov. 21, 2017, because he and Hancock messaged each other on Facebook, and Bentz went to his gym. Later that day, Hancock asked if he could “swing by” Bentz’s apartment.
Bentz failed to turn up at his brother’s for Thanksgiving or for a friend’s birthday the next day, Dort said.
Once homicide investigators took on the case, they found Bentz’s blood spattered in his Green Street apartment. His wallet and other items were found dumped near Interstate 5 in Logan Heights. Also found there was a wadded up paper napkin with a trace of his blood and Hancock’s DNA. His car was found in Mira Mesa.
Hancock used Bentz’s credit cards to buy bleach, a sharp-bladed mattock hand tool and a table saw, according to Dort. He said Hancock used the bleach to clean up Bentz’s apartment.
Hancock’s lawyer, Jimmy Rodriguez, told jurors that his client was given Bentz’s credit cards as partial payment for agreeing to take part in a sex video with a number of other men at Bentz’s apartment.
Rodriguez said, too, that Bentz let Hancock use his car because Bentz intended to go on a trip rather than to his brother’s for Thanksgiving.
Rodriguez said Angelina Hancock changed her stories to police, first denying that her husband was involved in the killing. It was after she was threatened with being charged as an accessory after the fact that she agreed to testify against him, Rodriguez said.
The prosecutor acknowledged that his office offered the wife immunity from prosecution so she would testify.
The trial is expected to last about three weeks.