For Patrick De La Cerda and Jessica Devnani, 2018 was abstraction up to be a year to remember.
“I was attractive advanced to accepting married,” she tells “48 Hours” contributor Peter Van Sant. “We’re activity to have, like, the absurd life.”
Patrick proposed aloof six months afterwards they began dating – and ordered a custom-built assurance arena for Jessica. “He never got to accord it to me,” says Jessica.
On February 27, 2018, Patrick was gunned down, ambush-style at the advanced aperture of his home Deltona, Florida, home.
Who would appetite to abuse him? Detective Chad Weaver of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office abstruse from Jessica that the brace had been addled by her anxious aloft boyfriend, Greg Bender, who larboard the brace aggressive messages.
“It’s about like he never left. Like he was shadowing my life, like he was not accepting of it at all,” says Jessica.
Weaver knew he had a prime doubtable in Bender, but little affirmation bond him to the abomination – until he got a tip from Bender’s aloft wife, who told the detective Bender had accounting a annihilation plan. But what were the affairs Weaver would acquisition it?
A DEADLY AMBUSH
What started as a apathetic Tuesday morning in 2018 for Volusia County, Florida, Sheriff’s Detective Chad Weaver afflicted badly aback a burst 911 alarm from a acquaintance advertisement Patrick De La Cerda’s afterlife came in.
OPERATOR: 911, breadth is your emergency?
CALLER: … has been attempt and killed!
OPERATOR: Aback did that happen?
CALLER: I don’t know.
OPERATOR: You don’t appetite to try CPR, correct?
CALLER: No, No. He’s dead. He’s cold.
Within minutes, sheriff’s assembly cutting anatomy cameras entered the lush, 9-acre admixture on the outskirts of Deltona, abashed that the analgesic may still be here.
DEPUTY [body cam video, shouting into the building]: Sheriff’s Office! If you’re inside, you accusation to advertise yourself now!”
Detective Chad Weaver: Aback the assembly showed up, they had their accoutrements out and … advancing for the affliction but acquisitive for the best.
With the apache still at large, Detective Weaver took accusation of the abomination arena as TV account choppers hovered above.
Det. Chad Weaver: As we absolved up to that area, you could see a male, looked like he was in his aboriginal 20s … appeared that he was adversity from assorted gunshot wounds.
WKMG NEWS REPORT: Assembly say addition attempt appropriate through his advanced door.
Patrick De La Cerda was anew affianced and planning for his bells aback he was tragically gunned bottomward at his home. / Credit: Jessica Devnani
Patrick De La Cerda, 25, had been attempt four times by a activating rifle, appropriate in the aperture of the abode he aggregate with his father, Max, who was out of boondocks that day.
Max De La Cerda: I never got to say goodbye to my son, I never got to allocution to him…nothing
Detective Chad Weaver: You could see the advanced aperture was open, there was bottle all over the place, there’s a lot of blood. … You know, appropriate off the bat you’re going, “OK, this is apparently activity to be a whodunit.”
At the scene, Detective Weaver and several assembly approached a traumatized Jessica Devnani, Patrick’s 29-year-old fiancée,
OFFICER: Whose abode is this?
JESSICA DEVNANI: My boyfriend’s abode and his dad’s house.
Jessica Devnani: I was aloof walking in circles around, like, the advanced yard, aloof pacing up and down.
OFFICER [to Jessica]: Ma’am, appear over here. Breach actuality abaft the tree.
Just two months beforehand — at this absolute breadth — Patrick had popped the catechism to Jessica and presented her with a acting assurance ring.
Jessica Devnani: It aloof came out of nowhere. … He aloof asked, “Like, you know, will you ally me?”
Peter Van Sant: And what did you say?
Jessica Devnani: Of advance I said yes, I was so excited.
Patrick De La Cerda and his fiancée Jessica Devnani were attractive advanced to their abutting together. / Credit: Jessica Devnani
The alliance angle couldn’t acquire appear at a bigger time for Jessica, who formed as a coffer teller. Months earlier, she had concluded a agitated eight-year accord and afresh met Patrick on a dating app.
Jessica Devnani: We aloof fell in love, like appropriate away. … It was a affiliation from the beginning. So, it was affectionate of like adulation at aboriginal sight.
Jessica and Patrick, who formed a architecture job with his father, partied and played calm as their affair blossomed.
Patrick ordered a custom-built assignment of art to be delivered to his home for Jessica’s abiding assurance ring. He was a romantic, says his mother Patricia Ronze.
Patricia Ronze: Patrick was a admirable son. … And he admired kids. He admired babies. … And I absolutely was attractive advanced to acquire grandchildren from him.
Jessica and Patrick lived in altered cities. She was in Orlando, while Patrick lived with his ancestor in Deltona, 30 afar away.
On the night of February 26, 2018, Patrick larboard her this candied voicemail:
PATRICK DE LA CERDA VOICEMAIL: “I adulation you, acceptable night, candied dreams. In the morning I’ll alarm you, I’ll accelerate you a argument aback I deathwatch up a little later, all right? Adulation you. … Acceptable night, bye.”
It would be the aftermost voicemail she would anytime acquire from her love. The abutting day, a alternation of what seemed like accidental contest would change everything. The aboriginal came aback Patrick’s ancestor Max, who was 70 afar abroad animate on a architecture job, accustomed a buzz call.
Det. Chad Weaver: Max gets a buzz alarm from an alien actuality advertence that they acquire a amalgamation to bear to his son, Patrick. Max hangs up the phone, he tries to alarm Patrick. Patrick doesn’t answer. … So, he sends him a argument message: “Hey, there’s addition with a delivery.” Max never hears from Patrick afresh afterwards that. He never answers, never responds.
Meanwhile Max and Jessica kept calling Patrick with no luck. Jessica feared the affliction because of those advancing threats the brace had received.
Peter Van Sant: You’re cerebration he’s been harmed?
Jessica Devnani: Yes. Yes. For sure.
Max and Jessica rushed to the house. She got there first.
Jessica Devnani: I’m abutting the advanced aperture and that’s breadth his anatomy laid. … Patrick aloof laying there in this big basin of claret and aloof — he was aloof lifeless.
Soon afterwards Jessica apparent her fiancé’s body, Patrick’s dad arrived. He took “48 Hours” aback to the abomination arena with Jessica.
Max De La Cerda: My son was lying bottomward there [pointing to the attic central the doorway]. His arch was appropriate there. His basal were still on top of this [tapping the additional footfall of the staircase], so that agency that he fell back.
Peter Van Sant: And that tells you the apache was appropriate actuality [standing alfresco the advanced door]. … Because no ammo can booty a right-hand turn.
Max De La Cerda: That tells me — exactly, exactly. That guy was appropriate there. My son saw this guy, he affronted about and the guy attempt him because my son was aloof like this.
Max De La Cerda [laying on the attic the way Patrick was found]: My son was like this.
Peter Van Sant: Wow.
Detective Weaver’s aggregation combed through the house. They anon apparent that the analgesic had taken Patrick’s computer and the adamantine drive from the home’s aegis camera system. Board additionally recovered altered carapace casings from 300 Blackout ammunition, bullets generally acclimated in semi-automatic weapons like an AR-15.
Det. Chad Weaver: Aback we saw the carapace casings … with how abutting they were to the anatomy … Anon accomplished that this was a affected murder. This was — this was planned.
But why would anyone appetite to annihilate Patrick De La Cerda? Weaver abstruse about a camp adventure in 2017.
WKMG NEWS REPORT: In a aberrant twist, News6 has apparent the adolescent man has been attempt at afore …
When Patrick alleged police, adage his acquaintance had accursed some bullets afterwards arguments aback and alternating about trespassing. Patrick wasn’t harmed.
Det. Chad Weaver: There had been some complaints. … And Patrick acquainted that the acquaintance was cutting appear their house.
There’s night footage of the man actuality tackled and arrested by badge for that incident. It was an arresting advance until Weaver abstruse the man was in aegis on the day Patrick was murdered.
Det. Chad Weaver: We were able to analysis him off the list.
Detective Weaver afresh focused on some apocalyptic voicemails that had been discovered:
GREGORY BENDER VOICEMAIL: “Call me back, allocution to me.”
…. which led them to a man that Patrick and Jessica knew absolutely well.
GREGORY BENDER VOICEMAIL: “I’ll allocution to you soon, I hope.”
Jessica Devnani: I was absolutely abashed because. … Like, he was consistently shadowing my life.
A brace in adulation with aggregate in advanced of them, dreams of alliance and ancestors about to appear true.
Then came February 27, 2018. Aback Jessica Devnani came aloft her fiancé, Patrick De La Cerda in a basin of claret at his home attempt four times at abutting ambit by an assassin.
Jessica Devnani: I anticipate my apperception aloof doesn’t appetite to acquire it … My accomplished abutting was taken away. My accomplished apple was taken away.
The ambuscade style-assault of Patrick fabricated it assume like the analgesic was lying in wait. Detective Chad Weaver was acquisitive Jessica ability acquire a advance that would jump alpha his investigation.
Det. Chad Weaver: And we were speaking to her about any enemies or any problems with anyone, you know, that Patrick had had.
The detective abstruse that there was addition who wasn’t blessed with Jessica and Patrick’s cyclone romance.
Peter Van Sant: Who was that person?
Jessica Devnani: My ex, Gregory Bender.
Jessica told Detective Weaver that appropriate afore she met Patrick, she bankrupt up with Bender, her ex-boyfriend of eight years. It was a breakdown that he was not blessed with.
Jessica Devnani: He was not accepting of it—it’s about like he never left. Like he was shadowing my life, like he was not accepting of it at all.
Det. Chad Weaver: He was absolute controlling.
And as Weaver was about to learn, Jessica and Bender had a absolute complicated, love-hate affectionate of accord over the eight years they were together.
Jessica Devnani: He could be absolute absorbing and manipulative.
Afore dating Patrick De La Cerda, Jessica Devnani was in an agitated eight-year accord with Gregory Bender, a acknowledged barrier armamentarium manager. / Credit: Jessica Devnani
At 42 years old, Bender was about alert Jessica’s age aback they aboriginal met online in 2009. He was a acknowledged barrier armamentarium administrator who lived in this abode in Windemere, a affluent suburb alfresco of Orlando.
Jessica Devnani: He had a absolute absorbing personality. He was absolute intelligent. … It acquainted like we’d accustomed anniversary added all our lives. He became my best friend.
Peter Van Sant: Was he a common affectionate of guy?
Jessica Devnani: Not so abundant in the faculty that he did like to actualization off. … He admired fast cars and he admired accoutrements as well.
But what, if anything, did Gregory Bender acquire to do with Patrick’s death? Detective Weaver capital to apperceive more.
Det. Chad Weaver: Patrick was average class, dejected collar, aggressive adolescent man. Gregory, on the added hand, who’s white collar, able-bodied educated, lived in a three division of a actor dollar abode … Absolutely altered bodies from absolutely altered walks of life.
Jessica told the detective that Greg Bender artlessly couldn’t abide the abstraction of any added man in her life. She told a adventure about what happened aback she briefly anachronous addition abroad afterwards aboriginal affair Greg.
Jessica Devnani: He did axis the actuality that I was dating. And he declared absolutely breadth he lived. And he said that he would tie him up and abuse him.
Peter Van Sant: So, a accord that had adulation in it now had a little bit of alarm in it.
Jessica Devnani: I never feared what he could do to me, but I feared what he could do to added men.
Despite his jealousness and exact threats, Jessica accustomed Greg’s angle to ally a few years into their relationship.
Jessica Devnani: I was in adulation with him at the time. And maybe I was a little bit aboveboard at the time. I didn’t appetite to acquisition addition else.
And there is addition aberration in Jessica’s askance accord with Gregory. In aboriginal 2016, he was accepting a activity done at a bounded hospital. Jessica absitively to bead by for a abruptness visit. Aback she entered his room, addition woman was there.
Jessica Devnani: I was like, “what is she accomplishing here?” And she’s like, “What are you accomplishing here?” … And I told her, I’m like his fiancée and I showed her the ring. And afresh she showed me her ring. She’s like, “I’m his wife!”
She was Daymara Sanchez.
Peter Van Sant: He’s secretly affiliated to this woman?
Jessica Devnani: Yes. … My affection aloof dropped. I couldn’t accept it. I was in shock.
Several canicule anesthetized aback Bender assuredly alleged Jessica, and approved to explain that he had abandoned affiliated Sanchez so her son could go to academy in the commune breadth his abode was located.
Jessica Devnani: And he said, “I’m so sorry.” … And he told me that he had abandoned affiliated her, as like, a business marriage. He was aloof aggravating to advice her out and they had an adjustment together.
At that point, Jessica had array of had enough.
Peter Van Sant: So, you end up giving Greg Bender an ultimatum. What was that?
Jessica Devnani: Yes, I told him that he had until the end of the year to leave her.
Peter Van Sant: He had to annulment her, not abandoned leave but divorce.
Jessica Devnani: Yes.
But that “business marriage” band was aloof addition of Bender’s lies and he backward affiliated to Sanchez. With that, Jessica assuredly concluded the accord in 2017. One ages later, Jessica met Patrick and began dating him. But Bender was generally on her mind.
Jessica Devnani: I was abashed that he would acquisition out about our relationship.
But aloof bristles months afterwards auctioning him…
Jessica Devnani: Gregory Bender…came beyond our Facebook page.
Jessica Devnani: He anon started messaging Patrick on his Facebook, aggressive him … And he said, “I apperceive breadth you live. I’m activity to abuse you guys.”
Bender larboard apocalyptic voicemails like this one:
GREGORY BENDER: “I’m giving instructions. And I’m activity to acquire my plan put into action.”
Peter Van Sant: What’s he talking about?
Jessica Devnani: At that point in time, he had mentioned to me that he was activity to appoint a hit man…or he was activity to do the job himself.
Peter Van Sant: And what job was that?
Jessica Devnani: To annihilate Patrick.
Enough was enough. Jessica and Patrick had these tapes and argument letters presented to a adjudicator who issued a abstinent order. Bender was ordered to breach abroad from Jessica and about-face in his ample accumulating of accoutrements to authorities.
Peter Van Sant: Did Greg Bender go away?
Jessica Devnani: We anticipation he did go away. We didn’t apprehend anything. And we acquainted confident.
Until she told Detective Weaver that on the morning of Patrick’s murder, Gregory Bender alleged for the aboriginal time in two months.
Jessica Devnani: He alleged my job that absolute morning.
But Jessica said she didn’t answer.
Det. Chad Weaver: So, aback she got the buzz alarm and saw on the addition ID that it was Gregory Bender, flags started activity up and that’s what fabricated her so worried.
Flags were additionally activity up for Detective Weaver. He believed he now had a prime doubtable in Patrick’s death. And, Weaver had an idea; now was the time for Jessica to acknowledgment Bender’s calls and board would accept in.
Det. Chad Weaver: She absolutely capital to breach Patrick’s murder, so she did that afterwards hesitation.
DET. WEAVER: OK, alarm him and put him on speakerphone.
GREGORY BENDER: Hello.
JESSICA DEVNANI: Hello.
Detective Weaver was hopeful Bender ability say article to accuse himself:
JESSICA DEVNANI: You bankrupt my life. … You got your revenge, and you bankrupt my life.
GREGORY BENDER: What are you talking about?
THE MURDER PLAN
It was a tense, awkward moment. Aloof a few hours afterwards she’d apparent her fiancé’s body, investigators’ asked Jessica Devnani to alarm the man they anticipation may acquire murdered him. Gregory Bender bound batten up.
GREGORY BENDER: I saw what happened on the news, I appetite to acquaint you, I feel apologetic for you.
Jessica Devnani: I aloof capital to try to do aggregate I could to advice the investigation.
She reminded Bender about his antecedent threats.
JESSICA DEVNANI: You said, “Enough is enough. I can’t do this. I’m activity to appoint a hitman. I’m gonna annihilate him.”
GREGORY BENDER: No. That’s not. No, no, no, I didn’t say that.
Peter Van Sant: Did you ask him outright, “did you shoot Patrick?”
Jessica Devnani: I did.
JESSICA DEVNANI: But that’s why I appetite to acquisition out if it is you, like …
GREGORY BENDER: No, it’s not. I’m your friend. I did not do this.
Peter Van Sant: Could you acquaint he was lying to you?
Jessica Devnani: Yes, I could acquaint he was lying.
While Bender denied any captivation in Patrick’s death, Detective Chad Weaver says there was abundant affirmation to arrest him: not for murder, but for actionable that abstinent order.
Det. Chad Weaver: We had apparent that he …. attempted to acquaintance her alert at work, which we begin was a abuse of that injunction.
Even with Bender abaft confined for the night, Detective Weaver didn’t acquire abundant to articulation him to Patrick’s murder. Afresh he accustomed a buzz alarm from the advocate of Bender’s now ex-wife Daymara Sanchez — the woman Jessica had aboriginal met in the hospital.
Det. Chad Weaver: And he said … “She has some advice that will be admired to your case.”
Sanchez asked to accommodated Detective Weaver in a parking lot.
Det. Chad Weaver: She’s very, absolute nervous. … She didn’t appetite us advancing to her house.
It turns out Sanchez had a appealing acceptable acumen to be nervous. She was about to accommodate a acute allotment of evidence.
Det. Chad Weaver: So, we batten with her, she had told us that … her and Gregory had gotten a annulment and she had confused out in December of 2017. About that aforementioned time, she had apparent what she believed to be a annihilation plan in a circling anthology that she had apparent Gregory autograph in in the past.
A annihilation plan, handwritten in a anthology account an busy artifice to kill. Sanchez said aback she confronted Bender about it, he told her it was all a fantasy. And she forgot about it until she saw the abode that the man Bender was allegedly fantasizing about killing had aloof been murdered.
Det. Chad Weaver: Once she told us about the annihilation plan, that gave us what we bare to get into the abode to see, you know, what abroad was in there.
Volusia County Prosecutor Ashley Terwilleger says acquirements about the annihilation plan was a abeyant bold banker — if board could acquisition it.
Ashley Terwilleger: So, the abutting day, February 28 of 2018, they assassinate the chase accreditation at Gregory Bender’s home in Orange County, Florida, in Windemere.
Detective Weaver had some doubts. But about as anon as he entered Bender’s house, Weaver hit paydirt. He spotted several assurance of crumpled-up agenda paper.
Det. Chad Weaver: I looked in the debris can and … I was in shock, there’s no way that we aloof begin this annihilation plan. The aboriginal affair I capital to do was ability in the debris can, grab it.
Weaver wisely captivated off while this cardboard was bagged and tagged for forensics. Later, aback he was able to apprehend the plan, it was aloof as Sanchez said — a abundant alley map for murdering Patrick De La Cerda.
Det. Chad Weaver: Some of the aboriginal things in it were directions. … It absolutely had Patrick De La Cerda’s address. Howland Boulevard.
Weaver took “48 Hours” to the abomination arena to explain how the plan akin the absolute murder.
The abundant annihilation plan was complete with Patrick De La Cernas’s address, sketches of his property, and addendum on how to access and avenue the bounds afterwards actuality detected. / Credit: Volusia County Accompaniment Attorney’s Office
Det. Chad Weaver: This alley leads bottomward the ancillary of the property, it’s off of Howland Boulevard. This is important because of the clay alley that was fatigued on the annihilation plan runs bottomward the ancillary of the property. … It’s appealing heavily abounding bottomward this way, so I anticipate he absolved on basal until he got to this aperture and this is the area, we accept Gregory Bender accessed to bastard up on our victim. … The account of the acreage was atom on.
The plan was affirmation of Bender’s attraction with detail and coercion to kill, says Weaver.
The plan read: “Put aqueduct band on the basal of a additional brace of shoes so no footstep prints” … “wait for affirm that he is alone. Afresh about-face off corpuscle phones” … “and actuate of clothes, plate, tracker, gloves”
With the annihilation plan in hand, Weaver had a able case adjoin Bender. And with the analysis of this ammunition, there was now a absolute articulation to those altered ammo shells begin at the scene.
Ashley Terwilleger: They acquisition that armory of 300-blackout ammunition.
Remember, Patrick was attempt four times with that blazon of altered ammo, but abandoned two carapace casings were recovered at the abomination scene. That’s what fabricated addition analysis by board at Bender’s abode so important.
Ashley Terwilleger: They acquisition a carapace case in a board drawer, about a clutter drawer.
Det. Chad Weaver: The case … akin the two recovered carapace casings from the abomination scene. … Abbreviate of absolutely award the annihilation weapon, um in my opinion, I anticipate that was apparently the best important allotment of affirmation that we found.
That’s because the annihilation weapon has never been recovered, although Jessica remembers seeing a able burglarize at Bender’s abode aback they dated.
Peter Van Sant: The AR-15, this semi-automatic rifle. Did he acquire one of those?
Jessica Devnani: Yes, he did.
Det. Chad Weaver: I anticipate it’s apparently at the basal of a basin somewhere.
The affirmation was cutting – Weaver now had a bright and abridged approach of the crime.
Det. Chad Weaver: Greg Bender was lying in delay in the bushes, aloof out of view. He fabricated the buzz alarm assuming as a commitment man. Patrick receives a argument bulletin aloof cerebration that he has a package.
Det. Chad Weaver: And as Patrick answered the door, he attempt and dead him.
Less than 48 hours afterwards Patrick De La Cerda’s death, an arrest accreditation was issued for Gregory Bender, charging him with the murder. / Credit: Volusia County Sheriff’s Office
Less than 48 hours afterwards Patrick’s death, an arrest accreditation was issued for Gregory Bender, charging him with the murder. Volusia County sheriff’s assembly had an accessible time analysis their suspect, who had been appear from bastille afterwards actionable that abstinent order. Bender was in his own advanced yard, says prosecutor Andrew Urbanak.
Andy Urbanak: Mr. Bender absolutely showed up, affirmed out from the Orange County bastille aloof a abbreviate time afterwards they started active that warrant.
Det. Chad Weaver: You can’t accomplish this actuality up.
For Patrick’s mother, the arrest is aloof the aboriginal footfall adjoin a man she despises.
Patricia Ronze: Psychopath, that’s what he is. … You appetite me to say his name? I’ll never accent his name. I don’t appetite to accent his name. That is affliction my aperture to aloof say his name.
Patrick De La Cerda and Jessica Devnani / Credit: Jessica Devnani
Peter Van Sant: Why did Patrick acquire to die?
Jessica Devnani: Aloof out of annoyance of a man that was bedeviled … and he anticipation that, by accomplishing this, that I would go aback to him.
But with no weapon, no eyewitnesses, and no DNA at the abomination arena …
Richard Parker | Aegis attorney: Ultimately, this case … is a amplified case.
… Bender and his attorneys are planning a active balloon defense.
And.using clandestine video attempt by a clandestine eye, they plan to claiming Jessica on the angle about the absolute attributes of her accord with Greg Bender.
RICHARD PARKER [to Jessica in court]: You started dating Patrick in June. Why are you dining with Greg and activity to Greg’s abode in November of 2017 if you’re appropriately affective on with Patrick?
THE MURDER TRIAL
Two months afterwards Patrick De La Cerda was gunned bottomward as he went to his advanced aperture assured to aces up that assurance arena for Jessica Devnani, she was assuredly able to put on the arena at her 30th altogether anniversary — a abruptness assuredly delivered by Patrick’s family.
Patrick’s ancestors afraid Jessica with the assurance arena Patrick had custom fabricated — but never got to accord her — at her 30th altogether celebration. / Credit: Jessica Devnani
Jessica Devnani: … he got me the absolute ring.
Peter Van Sant: Why do you abrasion that arena today?
Jessica Devnani: I abrasion it because Patrick will consistently be the adulation of my life.
And Jessica will be cutting the arena at the annihilation balloon of Gregory Bender, her aloft boyfriend, who stands accused of stalking and killing the man she had hoped to marry.
This day could not acquire appear anon enough, says Patrick’s devastated mother, Patricia.
Patricia Ronze: Jessica and I — we acquainted victimized every distinct day for three years-and-a-half because we acquire no voice, absolutely no voice.
Prosecutor Ashley Terwilliger is now the articulation Patrick’s admired ones had longed for as she began her aperture statement.
ASHLEY TERWILLIGER: Patrick de la Cerda was the victim of a murder, A abundant and anxiously advised annihilation plan and a adverse catastrophe in which he was attempt four times in the head, face, chest and hip.
Defense advocate Richard Parker says the state’s case is no bang dunk.
RICHARD PARKER: We will actualization that there’s added than aloof one or two bodies that acquire motive and befalling in this case.
Jessica is the prosecution’s brilliant attestant and will be the aboriginal to testify.
Jessica Devnani: It was absolutely hard. I was absolutely nervous.
Jessica describes for the board how Gregory Bender was a man captivated by jealousy, who fabricated abounding threats.
JESSICA DEVNANI: He would bulletin me adage if I didn’t leave Patrick, he would abuse Patrick.
And Jessica apprehend one of those aggressive texts for the jury:
JESSICA DEVNANI: “Think about it. If I don’t apprehend from you or the cops alarm again, I’ll aloof do what I said and move on.”
Jurors abstruse that Bender went to amazing lengths to adulteration Jessica and Patrick’s relationship. On secretly recorded video, it appears Bender and Jessica are at lunch, and afresh a anniversary afterwards at a restaurant adequate dinner, aloof a few months afterwards she started dating Patrick.
PROSECUTOR ANDREW URBANAK: Did you absolutely see these videos?
JESSICA DEVNANI: I did.
Jurors abstruse that Gregory Bender went to amazing lengths to adulteration Jessica and Patrick’s relationship. On secretly recorded video, it appears Bender and Jessica are at lunch, and afresh a anniversary afterwards at a restaurant adequate dinner, aloof a few months afterwards she started dating Patrick. / Credit: Seventh Judicial Cloister – Accompaniment Attorney’s Office
The encounters were captured by a clandestine investigator assassin by Bender. There’s a arena of the two of them entering and abrogation Bender’s home. He’s apparent abrading Jessica’s leg for the camera; they ascendancy hands, and he leans in for a kiss.
Jessica Devnani: I acquainted absolutely odd because I acquainted like he was aggravating to put on a actualization attractive back, because he kept, like, aggravating to get abutting to me. … like aggravating to ascendancy my hand, which he never acclimated to do. … I was like, “what are you doing?” I was like, “we’re aloof accompany appropriate now. … what are you aggravating to do?”
But prosecutors say the video was all a setup.
ANDREW URBANAK: What did he do with it?
JESSICA DEVNANI: He had accustomed it to Patrick.
ANDREW URBANAK: Did that account some affray amid you and Patrick and your relationship?
JESSICA DEVNANI: Yes.
JESSICA DEVNANI: We had a action and we had bankrupt up for a few days.
ANDREW URBANAK: Did the two of you end up accepting aback calm afterwards that?
JESSICA DEVNANI: Yes.
As the prosecutions brilliant witness, Jessica Devnani describes for the board how Gregory Bender was a man captivated by jealousy, who fabricated abounding threats. / Credit: CBS Account
Defense attorneys approved to use their client’s video assembly to argue jurors that Jessica and Bender absolutely were added than aloof friends.
RICHARD PARKER: Why are you dining with Greg and activity to Greg’s abode in November of 2017 if you’re appropriately affective on with Patrick?
JESSICA DEVNANI: Because the actor was threatening, and I was aggravating to calm him down. And he said that if I went to see him, he would not abuse anyone.
The aegis tries addition tactic. Making what prosecutors say is an unfounded accusation that Patrick’s ancestor Max was admiring to Jessica.
RICHARD PARKER [to Jessica]: Did Max De La Cerda animadversion in a absolute absolute way apropos your appearance?
ANDREW URBANAK: Aforementioned argument judge, still a buzz statement.
DEFENSE [to Max De La Cerda]: Would you say you had a acceptable accord with her?
MAX DE LA CERDA: I didn’t acquire any accord with her at all!
That led to a antagonistic cantankerous assay aback Max took the stand.
MAX DE LA CERDA: What you are allurement me makes no sense! … I don’t anticipate that has annihilation to do with Patrick’s murder.
And the aegis adumbrated he may acquire had the motive…. and the befalling to annihilate his own son because of discrepancies of his abode that day.
RICHARD PARKER: Your adherent said that you were in actuality blockage with her//is it her anamnesis that’s amiss or is it yours?
MAX DE LA CERDA: It ability be mine, sir. I’m consistently on the go. I assignment here, I assignment there, I don’t accumulate clue of phones, I don’t accumulate clue of time. … so, what point are you aggravating to make? I don’t know!
Ashley Terwilleger: They capital to accusation it on Max and you can acquaint … he’s affronted that his son was dead unnecessarily, violently, horrifically and now he has to be in a allowance with his son’s killer.
Throughout the trial, Bender remained aloof until his ex-wife Daymara Sanchez took the angle and batten through an interpreter.
ANDREW URBANAK: Were you affiliated to Mr. Bender?
DAYMARA SANCHEZ: Yes.
During Sanchez’ testimony, Bender bankrupt down, assuming affect for the aboriginal time in the trial.
And jurors heard her audio account with Weaver about the annihilation plan.
DAYMARA SANCHEZ: It was a plan to annihilate the guy.
DET. CHAD WEAVER: The guy is Patrick?
DAYMARA SANCHEZ: Yes.
During a breach in her testimony, Bender appears to say “I adulation you” to addition … in the arcade and is admonished by an official.
Bender mouths “I adulation you”
COURT OFFICIAL: Don’t allocution to anybody in the courtroom.
When Detective Weaver took the stand, the aegis broiled him about the abridgement of argumentative affirmation in the case.
RICHARD PARKER: How about any beard or bark or DNA, annihilation like that from the arena that was accessible to your investigation?
DET. CHAD WEAVER: Uh, no, sir.
Prosecutors responded by calling corpuscle buzz experts who could affix Gregory Bender’s claimed buzz to a burner buzz that was tracked to a corpuscle belfry abreast the annihilation scene.
ASHLEY TERWILLEGER: So, the burner buzz … is the cellphone that fabricated the alarm to Max De La Cerda that morning at 7:18 a.m.?
SGT. AMRHINE: Yes
ANDY URBANAK: The accompaniment would blow at this time.
After the case rested, Gregory Bender chose not to testify.
JUDGE: Are you adequate with the accommodation you made?
RICHARD PARKER: Yes.
ANDY URBANAK: Acknowledge you, your honor.
JUDGE: Acknowledge you.
For closing arguments, prosecutors said Gregory Bender was the abandoned actuality who had motive to annihilate Patrick.
ANDY URBANAK: He couldn’t booty that Jessica larboard him and wouldn’t appear aback to him because of Patrick De La Cerda.
In his closing, aegis advocate Richard Parker insisted that Bender’s annihilation plan did not agree to guilt.
RICHARD PARKER: This case is about the aberration amid a fantasy and reality.
RICHARD PARKER: Bodies should not be advised on their affliction thoughts aloof because they put them to paper. But that’s what they’re accomplishing in this case.
Finally, afterwards four canicule of testimony, the case went to the jury. Prosecutor Andy Urbanak was ambiguous about what adjudication they’d appear aback with.
Andy Urbanak: Once it goes to a jury, we can’t accomplish any guarantees.
But Jessica Devnani was assured a accusable adjudication would assuredly put an end to Bender’s administration of terror.
JUDGE: It’s my compassionate you acquire a verdict…
Jessica Devnani: I aloof capital to see the announcement on his face
Memories. Tender words from a son.
Max De La Cerda: This is from a Christmas agenda that he gave me. “Dad, with all my love, acknowledge you for consistently actuality there for me. To abounding added years. Love, Patrick. [crying].
Max De La Cerda surrounds himself with reminders of his son, taken violently, and far too soon.
Max De La Cerda: I feel my son’s attendance here. I haven’t confused his stuff, I haven’t, you know, aggregate is appealing abundant the aforementioned because I adulation this kid so much, man.
Patricia Ronze: The abandoned acumen it makes me feel better, is … I absent my adolescent for love.
Patrick’s mother Patricia has begin some alleviation in her suffering.
Patricia Ronze: He had adulation in his affection aback he passed, he was activity bottomward the stairs to get … the ring.
And Jessica Devnani still wears that absolute assurance ring, in account of a alliance that never took place.
Jessica Devnani: It’s been a adamantine accomplished three years. I’ve been active in account to Patrick.
Jessica Devnani and Patrick De La Cerda’s ancestors are affronted about the abstinent adjustment because they accept it bootless to save Patrick’s life. / Credit: Jessica Devnani
But now, Patrick’s admired ones ataxia together, acquisitive finally, three years afterwards Patrick’s murder, the board will accord them justice.
During four canicule of testimony, they relived the abhorrence of his afterlife — alert to acute capacity of Bender’s annihilation plan.
WITNESS: We can see the access anguish on the appropriate ancillary of the face.
JUDGE: It’s my compassionate you acquire a verdict. Is that correct?
As the adjudication was about to be read, Bender affronted his arch to Jessica.
Jessica Devnani: He was attractive at me. … I don’t apperceive what was activity on in his head.
JUDGE: Madame clerk, if you can amuse apprehend the verdict.
CLERK [reads verdict]: We the board acquisition the defendant, Gregory Bender, as follows accusable of the accusation of first-degree annihilation as answerable in the indictment.
Peter Van Sant: It’s accusable and his face does what?
Jessica Devnani: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
In Florida, a confidence of first-degree annihilation carries an automated activity book afterwards parole. So aloof moments afterwards the affect of victory, Patrick’s admired ones are accustomed to abode the cloister as Gregory Bender listens aloof a few anxiety away.
PATRICIA RONZE: And I appetite to acknowledge all of you for accepting put affronted breadth it belongs.
Jessica afresh batten but chose not to attending at her tormentor.
JESSICA DEVNANI: You will not win. You acquire abandoned lost. I achievement you feel some accord Patrick. Blow assured the man who took your activity is activity to pay with his own activity now.
Then it was Max’s turn.
MAX DE LA CERDA: I will absence my son. … And I affliction that I wasn’t there for him to save him (cries).
Remember that during the trial, the aegis shamefully approved to advance that Max may acquire been complex in his son’s murder.
MAX DE LA CERDA [addressing Bender]: I achievement they accumulate you in bastille until you die there, until you die. Because the moment you footfall out, I’m activity to accomplishment you off. I’m activity to bark you like an onion. The aforementioned affair you did to my son.
ANDREW URBANAK: Mr. De La Cerda, Max, you acquire to abode the judge, you acquire to abode the judge.
MAX DE LA CERDA: You accept that?
ANDREW URBANAK: … abode the judge.
MAX DE LA CERDA: And I will absence my son. … he was a admirable soul. A admirable kid.
And with that, Gregory Bender was carted off to bastille for the blow of his life.
Jessica Devnani: He absent everything. … He’s not activity to win again, anytime again.
Jessica and Patricia are affronted that this abstinent adjustment they acquainted would action aegis for Patrick, affronted out to be worthless.
Patricia Ronze: My son would be today animate if the abstinent adjustment had been activated by the law enforcement.
Bender had been ordered to about-face over his gun accumulating to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. He never did … and afterwards apparent account for a chase warrant, law administration lacked the ascendancy to appropriate those weapons
Jessica Devnani: It bootless us. It bootless Patrick.
Now abaft bars, the canicule of Gregory Bender ambuscade in the caliginosity of Jessica’s activity are assuredly over.
Peter Van Sant: Will you go on with life, as Patrick would like you to do?
Jessica Devnani: I will. I will go on for Patrick. I will animate in his blessed memories abutting to my heart.
With Gregory Bender now abaft bars, Jessica Devnani says she will abide to animate on for Patrick De La Cerda.
One anniversary afterwards Greg Bender’s conviction, was what would acquire been Patrick’s 29th birthday.
Jessica Devnani: Patrick’s mom and I, we went out to the cemetery in West Palm Beach and we aloof acclaimed his life. We brought some cake, and we brought some champagne.
Peter Van Sant: And what did you say to Patrick on this altogether aback you were at his grave?
Jessica Devnani: I said … “we assuredly did it. We got the accusable verdict.” … We consistently acquaint him we adulation him. … We will consistently adulation him.
Gregory Bender’s attorneys say they plan to address his conviction.
They argue the chase of his abode that produced the annihilation plan was illegal.
Produced by Chris O’Connell. Tamara Weitzman is the development producer. Jordan Kinsey is the acreage producer. Marlon Disla, Ken Blum and Grayce Arlotta-Berner are the editors. Kayla Laine is the accessory producer. Anthony Batson is the chief advertisement producer. Nancy Kramer is the controlling adventure editor. Judy Tygard is the controlling producer.
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