Man charged with murder of acquaintance who disappeared 7 months ago

SAN DIEGO — A man accused in the presumed slaying of a Point Loma Heights resident who vanished seven months ago pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a murder charge.

Brian Eleron Hancock of National City was ordered held on $2 million bail in connection with the disappearance last fall of Peter Bentz, 68.

Hancock, 47, was in jail on an unrelated case when he was charged with Bentz’s murder.

Deputy District Attorney Genaro Ramirez said Hancock faces 75 years to life in prison, if convicted. The prosecutor said the defendant has an arson conviction from the late 1990s and a residential burglary conviction from the early 2000s.

The last known sighting of Bentz was last Nov. 19 at Dog Beach in Ocean Beach, according to San Diego police. After he failed to show up as planned four days later to celebrate Thanksgiving with relatives in San Pedro, they reported him missing.

Detective’s initially investigated Bentz’s disappearance as a missing person’s case. Though Bentz has not been found dead or alive, “developments” in his missing-person case led detectives to reclassify it as a homicide investigation, SDPD Lt. Anthony Dupree said. He declined to elaborate.

Dupree described the two men only as acquaintances.

Hancock was arrested in January on suspicion of burglary, cruelty to a child and drug charges, and has been in custody since.

Police disclosed no suspected motive for the alleged slaying.

Hancock will be back in court July 12 for a status conference and bail review.