Judge delays murder trial after dropping special circumstance
by NEAL PUTNAM
Published - 09/09/19 - 02:30 PM | 659 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Blue tinted monotone image of a gavel and scales of justice
Blue tinted monotone image of a gavel and scales of justice
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A murder trial in the death of Ocean Beach resident Peter Bentz was delayed until Jan. 6 after the judge earlier dismissed a special circumstance charge of murder during a robbery.

During pre-trial motions, the attorney for Brian Eleron Hancock, 49, asked San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan Weber for more time to prepare after the prosecutor provided a new DNA report. Jury selection had been scheduled to start Sept. 4.

Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Dort said Tuesday the body of Peter Bentz, 68, has still not been recovered, but he is believed dead. Bloodstains from Bentz were found in his Ocean Beach apartment after he went missing in November 2017.

In another hearing in August, Weber dismissed a special circumstance charge that alleged Hancock killed the victim during a robbery. She ruled there was insufficient evidence for the special circumstance shown at the October 2018 preliminary hearing that was conducted by another judge.

If Hancock was convicted of first-degree murder with the special circumstance, he would have faced a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Dort said he now faces a penalty of 25 years to life if convicted of first-degree murder.

There were a number of items missing from Bentz' Greene Street apartment, such as his computer, monitor, and video equipment, wallet, and a ring, the latter of which was found in a pawn shop where Hancock had reportedly visited.

The motive for the murder involves the video equipment. Bentz reportedly videotaped Hancock having sex with another woman and apparently posted the video online. A witness testified that Hancock became enraged upon seeing it, and that he admitted to stabbing Bentz.

Bentz was last seen alive on Nov. 20, 2017 going inside the 24-Hour Fitness gym on Midway Drive in a security video. His brother filed a missing person's report after he failed to show up for Thanksgiving in San Pedro.

Bentz's wallet and personal papers were found discarded in an embankment near Interstate 5. His Toyota Highlander was found near Barrio Logan.

Hancock, of National City, has pleaded not guilty. He remains in jail on $2.25 million bail.

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