In July 2013, we told you about the arrest of Hector Bencomo-Hinojos for the brutal 1981 sex assault and murder of Patricia Beard — a bust made possible by a DNA hit scored by the cold-case project affiliated with the Denver District Attorney's Office.
We also noted that Bencomo-Hinojos tried to blunt this physical evidence by playing unbelievably dumb. For instance, he claimed not to understand the term "murderer," and while he admitted to having some experience with oral sex, he acted ignorant about how it actually worked, as described below in the kind of detail that may disturb some readers.
Apparently, though, Bencomo-Hinojos has now figured out these matters. He pleaded guilty to charges lower than those originally leveled against him, although the agreed-upon sentence is likely to keep the 55-year-old behind bars for the rest of his life.
As we reported in our original post, the crime took place at the address of an East Denver facility that continues to serve at-risk adults. For that reason, we're not posting the arrest affidavit. However, the following account draws from the document and features direct quotes in one passage.
The affidavit sets the beginning of the investigation at just shy of 3 p.m. on March 27, 1981.
That's when Patricia Beard, age 32, was found dead inside her apartment, on the first floor of the building. She was lying face up on her bed, with her pink robe open, her blue panties around her right ankle, her slip pushed up above the genital area, and a used tampon nearby.
An autopsy revealed a laceration on Beard's left breast, a bone fracture and extensive hemorrhages along the neck. The coroner concluded that Beard had been strangled to death.
Also noticed by the original officers was what appeared to be the killer's manner of entry — through a window, probably after using a brick on the exterior of the building as a foothold.
That's a lot of evidence, but it didn't lead to an arrest for a very long time. Indeed, more than three decades passed before a day in August 2011, when a detective with the Denver police cold-case unit discovered a post-mortem kit affiliated with the Beard case. (It survived, but much of the other material taken from the scene was gone, having been tossed in 1994.) He subsequently met with a forensic scientist, who revealed that a vaginal swab had tested positive for sperm.
The detective asked that the swab be tested for DNA, and it was — but this effort didn't lead to a swift conclusion. It wasn't until July 2013 that a match was scored with Bencomo-Hinojos. The same proved true of DNA found on an oral swab from the Beard post-mortem kit — meaning that traces of sperm had also been found in her mouth.
Bencomo-Hinojos was easily found, since he was living at a prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Days after the DNA hit, a DPD rep quizzed him, but he didn't prove to be especially forthcoming. He conceded that he'd lived in Denver for about fifteen years beginning in 1977, a year before he married. But he said he didn't recognize a photo of Beard and insisted that he had never had sex with an African-American woman.
When the investigator got more specific, Bencomo-Hinojos acted clueless according to this excerpt:
Your affiant then asked about Hector having ever received a "blow job" (oral ex) from a woman. Hector said yes, from his wife. Hector was asked if he had ever had oral sex with a black woman or the woman in the photo. The answer was no. Your affiant explained to Hector that DNA had also been found in the victim's mouth. Hector said he did not know what your affiant was talking about.
The ignorance is magnified even further in the next paragraph:
Your affiant then explained that the victim was also killed. Hector said he did not know what your affiant was talking about. Your affiant asked Hector if he knew what a murderer was. Hector said no. After your affiant explained to Hector that it was a person that killed another person, Hector said that he did not know what your affiant was talking about.
The interrogator's reaction to this promethean display of dull-wittedness can be guessed by the next line: "The interview was then concluded."
The investigation wasn't. Around this time, a detective tracked down Bencomo-Hinojos's wife. She painted him as a physically abusive lout who would slap her face if she didn't have his clothes ironed by the time he got home. But she also identified at least six occasions when he came home with what appeared to be stolen goods, suggesting that he had been involved in burglaries during the period of time that Beard's killing took place.
This info tied into the manner of entry at Beard's apartment, thereby giving police and prosecutors confidence that Bencomo-Hinojos was responsible for Beard's death.
Bencomo-Hinojos was subsequently extradited to Colorado, where he was charged with first-degree murder after deliberation and felony murder-sexual assault. But his arrival here hardly caused the wheels of justice to turn faster. Nearly two years passed before the final resolution.
This week, the first-degree murder charges were dismissed in exchange for Bencomo-Hinojos pleading guilty to one count apiece of second-degree murder and second-degree kidnapping, supplemented by affiliated crime-of-violence charges. The stipulated sentence for the offenses comes to 48 years in prison (24 years for each count) plus one year of mandatory parole per count.
Sentencing is set for June 8. If Bencomo-Hinojos serves the entire jolt, he'll earn his release around the time he turns 103 — and even half that stint would keep him locked up until he's in his eighties.
Look below to see a mug shot showing what Bencomo-Hinojos looks like today.Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.