Did a Sex-Tape Lead to Murder?

There was sex, lies, and a reported videotape, but no body. Nevertheless, forty-nine-year-old Brian Eleron Hancock stood trial for first-degree murder of his friend Peter Bentz. As Hancock’s trial began on January 6, 2020, in the San Diego courtroom of Judge Joan Weber, the paramount question was raised: Did Brian Hancock stab Peter Bentz to death after believing Bentz posted a sex-tape of the married Hancock and his secret girlfriend? The prosecution contended he did, and then in a panicked cover-up used Bentz’s credit cards to purchase cleaning products and other items, including a shovel, dolly, saw, mattock, and rug before burying Bentz in the desert. The sixty-eight-year old Bentz last communicated with Hancock on the afternoon of November 21, 2017, when Hancock asked if he could “swing by.” Bentz was never seen or heard from again, and his body has never been found despite exhaustive searches.

Although Brian Hancock was married and the father of two young daughters, he was living a secret, double life, not only having an affair with another woman but also having sexual liaisons with Bentz. The story it seemed could not get any more complicated or salacious, but then Brian Hancock took the witness stand. Supremely confident, even arrogant at times, he adamantly denied ever harming Peter Bentz, and then told an extraordinary tale. Would the jury believe his smooth-talking account? Or would they believe a much darker version?

Hancock’s ex-wife, along with another witness, told a vastly different story. Granted immunity from prosecution, had they turned to save themselves as the defense propounded, or were they speaking the gospel truth? Would crime scene evidence, along with cell phone tracking and credit card purchases be Hancock’s undoing? Or was there a simple explanation for it all as the defense offered? But let’s start at the beginning.

Peter Bentz – An Upbeat Man Who Kept A Regimented Routine

Peter Bentz served in the Army and was an upbeat, robust, and athletic man, who loved to play tennis and work out at the gym said his younger brother who was the first witness to take the stand. He loved photography and was especially proud of some prized photographs he had taken while on African safari. He always wore a gold chain that held a real gold nugget, which his father had gifted to him. A ring with a black stone always adorned his hand as well.

Described as a “smiley” person by one friend, he was also a man of regimented routine, with another friend pronouncing him OCD (which stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Timing everything perfectly, he went to his gym, 24-Hour Fitness, on prescribed days and times, not willing to deviate for anything. He kept his rent receipts in perfect order, compiling a stack dating all the way back to 1999. He was known to answer text messages quickly and to contact his family and friends regularly.

Peter Bentz was not a person to disappear without a word. So, when he failed to attend the annual Thanksgiving gathering at his brother’s home on November 23, 2017, a tradition spanning over two decades, his family grew worried. Then when he didn’t contact his close friend for their mutual birthday celebration at Denny’s, another solid tradition of twenty years, everyone knew something was seriously wrong. His family reported him missing and then devoted intense efforts to finding him. What had happened to their dependable and beloved Peter?

sex-tape murder trial

An Afternoon of Sex, But Was There Ever Really a Sex-Tape?

Brian Hancock testified he met Peter Bentz in August or September of 2017, when Hancock repaired a ceiling fan at Bentz’s apartment. Hancock was a trained electrician but had been laid off his job and was working whatever side-jobs he could find. He told police though he met Bentz on-line for sex. However, their meeting came to be, Hancock and Bentz grew close. Hancock would spend time at Bentz’s apartment, both smoking marijuana, and eventually doing more serious drugs such as methamphetamine and heroin. At one time Bentz was a recovering alcoholic and heroin addict, but according to his brother, he had been sober for a record-breaking 25 years. Had he relapsed unbeknownst to all? He had, if Hancock was to be believed.

Bentz was an active on-line dater, seeking out women as well as men. He told his brother he was a “swinger.” Hancock too was bisexual, and he testified a sexual relationship developed with Bentz, with Bentz even videotaping or livestreaming their sessions on some occasions. The sex-tape was always with the consent of Hancock, although his face was not to be shown. At times, Bentz would even give him money.

Peter Bentz was not the only person Hancock was seeing though, as he was engaged in an affair with Rosa Hammond too. As she had a boyfriend, Hancock and Hammond kept their relationship secret from their respective partners. This was not Hancock’s first affair with Rosa Hammond, having been involved with her almost ten years prior when his wife, Angelina, was pregnant with their first child. The affair contributed to the demise of his marriage in 2010. However, Angelina, apparently being forgiving, was willing to give the relationship another try and remarried Hancock in 2011. They had another daughter and Hancock appeared to be a family man. It was not to last. In 2017, Hancock found Rosa Hammond on Facebook and their bygone affair resumed. Soon enough, their sexual escapades involved Bentz.

On November 17, 2017, Hancock took Hammond to Bentz’s apartment in Ocean Beach for an afternoon of sex. According to Hammond, they all did methamphetamine together as well. The sexual coupling began first with Hancock and Bentz engaging in sex together on the living room couch as Hammond watched. Afterwards, she had sex with Hancock while Bentz watched. Was Bentz also secretly videotaping them? Neither had knowledge of this nor had offered their agreement to this sex-tape.

The next day, November 18, 2017, Hammond received a surprising message through Facebook messenger with an attached video link. Although, she was never able to access the video, she was told it was a sex-tape. Hammond sent the link to Hancock and the two began to text about it, discussing it for days, from November 18th until the 21st. Finally, Hancock told her he was going to talk to Bentz about the sex-tape. He soon informed her, “I took care of it.”

Damning Testimony from Tori Flores

Tall and blond, Tori Flores took the witness stand and relayed how at one time she was homeless, had made her living selling drugs, and had used heroin and methamphetamine every day. She testified she met Hancock in 2017, would sell him drugs, and they would drive around together, sometimes stopping at sex shops to buy clothes. She was intimate with him on one occasion. Hancock told her about the sex-tape, stating he was not aware it had been made. He said Bentz asked him if he could put the sex-tape on the internet, but he had told him “no.” Hancock was angry the video was posted anyway, and said, “I am going to get him.”

A few days later, Hancock texted Flores, either writing “I did it” or “I got him.” Flores could not remember the exact words. But when she talked to Hancock, she recalled his chilling words. He said, “I had to stab him seven times. He was a big guy, hard to take down.” Hancock then asked her if she would be a lookout so he could clean up the apartment. Flores wanted no part and told him “no!” He told her he had to go to Home Depot to buy cleaning supplies. Flores was scared knowing about the killing and told no one about what she had learned.  When she was picked up by the police with her friend, John Gonzalez, who everyone called “Eddie,” she told the police she didn’t know anything about Hancock being involved with a missing person or involved in any violent acts.

It was not until she was in jail on an unrelated burglary that she decided to talk. Soon she signed a Cooperating Agreement with the district attorney on May 24, 2018 and June 6, 2018, where she agreed to testify against Hancock and was given immunity from prosecution. The defense argued her testimony was suspect, as she was simply trying to save herself, and she received a more favorable sentence of probation and drug treatment rather than prison.

In a dramatic moment on the witness stand, as Tori Flores’ testimony was ending, when confronted with the police report by the defense, she suddenly turned to Judge Weber and requested a break to talk to the district attorney. It was a confounding moment, and everyone was stunned. Judge Weber ultimately had her speak with both attorneys in a private room. Once back on the witness stand, Tori Flores, now very emotional, testified Hancock had really told her, “I am going to kill him.”

Hancock’s Ex-Wife Testifies Against Him

As Angelina Hancock took the witness stand, her attorney, David Shapiro, was close at hand to aid her at any time. Angelina was married twice to Hancock and testified she has known him for 25 years. She first met him in 1994 and married him in 1998. She learned Hancock was having an affair with Rosa Hammond when she was pregnant with their first child, and she divorced Hancock in the Spring of 2010.  They remarried in 2011, but following the events of this case, Angelina again divorced him, this time in September of 2019. They have two daughters together, ages 8 and 17.

Angelina said her husband was usually the life of the party, very beloved, and fun to be around. But in 2017, Hancock injured his back, had to have surgery, and went on disability. When he returned to work, he was subsequently laid off. Although she worked full-time, their finances were strained, and Hancock fell into a depression and was “very angry.”

As the prosecutor delved into her knowledge of her husband’s cheating ways, it was hard not to feel compassion for this loving wife and mother. She obviously had devoted her life to him and seemed to have loved him deeply. In October of 2017, she was upset and hurt to find out he was again seeing Rosa Hammond. She discovered the affair when Hancock left his tablet out and a message popped up. She read the message and then others between them. She confronted Hancock but he downplayed it saying he was just trying to lead Hammond on for her not supporting him in another court case. Years before, Hancock had revealed he was bi-sexual, but he told her it was a phase, so she had agreed to move forward. Although she tried to understand his time with another man, she could not abide his seeing other women. Soon she also learned of his involvement with Tori Flores. Despite the painful discoveries, a more horrifying matter would command her attention, that of murder.

To continue reading about what happened in this heartbreaking and riveting trial, please go to Aleida K. Wahn’s book, Murder Trials We Can’t Forget And Other True Cases. Aleida was there inside the courtroom for every minute, and now shares the extraordinary details of what really happened in these gripping and unforgettable trials. Order your copy today at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B2YLWD1X

 

Aleida K. Wahn's book: MURDER TRIALS WE CAN'T FORGET And Other True Cases

About Aleida K. Wahn, Esq.

I am an attorney, award-winning true crime writer, and legal analyst of criminal cases. I cover criminal trials and writes stories about compelling, gripping, and unforgettable cases that impact our world. I take you into the courtroom in high-profile murder trials, rape cases, crimes of passion, cases involving mental illness, deviant behavior, and more. I have a deep passion for true crime, criminal law, and all aspects of the criminal justice system. I have appeared as an expert on true crime shows, including “48 Hours,” “Snapped,” and “The Dead Files,” and provided legal analysis on high-profile criminal trials on Court TV, the Law & Crime Trial Network, Fox 5 News, ABC 10 News, and KUSI News. I also create and host shows with the Del Mar Television Producers Group, addressing criminal justice and social issues in recent criminal trials.

I provided my insight and legal analysis on Court TV and the Law & Crime Trial Network of the high-profile trial of former NFL star Kellen Winslow Jr. It was a trial that captured the nation as the heralded ex-football star with fame, fortune, and a famous name stood accused of multiple rapes and other sex crimes involving five women. As the trial delved into shocking facts, complicated legal issues, and unexpected twists and turns, I was there for every minute. After the trial, I wrote a book on the case, going behind the headlines to share the extraordinary details of what happened inside the courtroom. Judging Winslow Jr.: From NFL Star to Serial Rapist? Inside the Shocking Rape Trial of Kellen Boswell Winslow II is now available on Amazon.

I am passionate about telling true crime stories, as these penetrating stories have the power to move us all, while highlighting societal issues which need to be addressed. I have personally seen the human devastation which is present in each trial and believe there is a lesson to be learned in every single case. It is through awareness and examining critical issues society can effect change and even make new laws. To learn more, please visit: https://www.aleidalaw.com.

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