The murder trial of an electrician, Brian Eleron Hancock, 49, got underway in San Diego Superior Court involving the death of Bentz, 68, whose body has not been found.
Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Dort described the circumstances in his opening statement of the presumed death of Bentz whom he said was last seen alive on Nov. 20, 2017, when a security camera showed him leaving the 24-Hour Fitness gym on Midway Drive.
Bentz’s 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 Dort.
His belongings were found strewn near a freeway that included a napkin with Bentz’s blood and Hancock’s DNA on it, said Dort. Hancock used Bentz’s credit cards and 2006 Toyota Hylander days after Bentz vanished.
Dort told the seven-woman, five-man jury that Bentz had a sexual relationship with Hancock, but that he brought over a woman and Bentz videotaped Hancock having sex with her.
That video was posted online, and Hancock was quoted by a witness as saying “I’m going to get him,” said Dort. A witness will say that Hancock worried “he didn’t bury him deep enough,” said Dort.
Hancock’s attorney, Jimmy Rodriguez, told jurors that his client met Bentz after he hired him to do electrical work in his apartment. They had a consensual sexual relationship, he said.
“Mr. Hancock may be many things, but he is not a murderer,” said Rodriguez. “Mr. Hancock did not kill Peter Bentz.”
Rodriguez said Hancock and Bentz shared “a mutual vice—drugs,” and his client-supplied Bentz with drugs. “It doesn’t make him a killer,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said Hancock came over to Bentz’s home and found him making a sex video with others. 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.
“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 will not be prosecuted for allegedly being an accessory after the fact.
Dort said Hancock’s phone pinged from locations in Campo where it was believed Bentz is buried. A label from a tool believed purchased by Hancock was found in Campo, but no DNA or fingerprints were recovered.
“The body is just too heavy,” Hancock is quoted as telling his wife, according to Dort.
Jury selection started Jan. 6 and finished Jan. 7 with three female alternates chosen. Dort asked potential jurors if they had any problems with finding a person guilty of murder if a body has not been found.
The trial is estimated to last until Jan. 29. Hancock has pleaded not guilty and he remains in jail on $2 million bail.