"Cobra Killer" reveals how a real-life, gay-porn murder mystery unraveled on Black's Beach

On Jan. 24, 2007, a gay-porn movie producer in northeastern Pennsylvania was murdered in his home in a most horrific way.

Bryan Kocis' throat was slashed so severely that his head was nearly severed from his body. Then he was stabbed 28 times in the chest and abdomen. Finally, his lifeless corpse was set on fire, charred with second- and third-degree burns in a conflagration that also consumed much of his house. Police forensic experts needed dental records to positively identify the body.

These gruesome details are found in “Cobra Killer: Gay Porn, Murder And The Manhunt To Bring The Killers To Justice,” a new book by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway that will no doubt find a captive audience in San Diego.

The sensational murder of the owner of Cobra Video -- and the salacious gay-porn details that surrounded this case -- was covered by national publications such as Rolling Stone and Out Magazine, but the slaying never got significant coverage in San Diego's LGBT media such as it existed back then. That is a bit odd: Even though the murder and the trial took place in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and the killers were from Virginia, two of the crucial witnesses and much of the action of this drama were based in San Diego, including a bizarre police wiretap operation conducted while the participants were frolicking and filming nude on Black's Beach.

A very detailed book

Those not already familiar with the murder case may find the book a bit of a tough read.

The first half of the book, looking at events before the trial, is organized topically rather than chronologically; and even then the topics themselves don’t always seem to be arranged in chronological order. One topic may begin talking about a certain subject at a point in time before the action in a previous topic left off. Or, important information about the same events may be spread over different chapters. This requires the reader to pay very close attention to dates; otherwise confusion is likely to occur.

The facts, however, are extremely well-documented and footnoted. They seem to be drawn mainly from the trial transcripts, previous interviews of the participants by outside sources, plus new interviews done by the authors, including a discussion with the lead prosecutor and a prison correspondence with one of the convicted murderers.

If readers make the effort to mentally arrange these facts into a more coherent narrative as they go along, they'll be rewarded with a fascinating tale.

Who was the victim?

The book's first half describes the murder, how it came about, and how the killers were finally tracked down and arrested.

It begins with the victim, Bryan Kocis, a self-made man who made a small fortune in the niche area of barely legal amateur gay male "twink" porn. It tells how after a long, bitter and expensive legal struggle with one of his more prominent performers ("Brent Corrigan" of San Diego), Kocis barely had time to enjoy the fruits of a recent settlement agreement before he was brutally murdered.

The book does a commendable job of describing Kocis, with all his many faults and checkered past; yet still makes it clear that he was human and certainly didn’t deserve the horrible fate that befell him.

Who were the killers?

The book profiles the convicted killers, Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes, of Virginia Beach, Va. Like Kocis, Cuadra and Kerekes made their fortune in the field of amateur gay porn, which they supplemented with a thriving male escort service.

The authors describe how Cuadra and Kerekes ran into financial difficulties, however, and came up with a harebrained scheme to kill Kocis, to separate him from Corrigan, the big-name twink porn star that Kocis had just inked the legal settlement with. And murder him they did ... but not without leaving a mountain of digital and cellular evidence in their wake.

Once again, the book does a wonderful job of character depiction: Kerekes is revealed as the blunt, violence-prone half of the relationship, and Cuadra as the calculating and manipulative half. Both are fairly conclusively shown to be liars and dissemblers of epic proportions.

Who are the star witnesses

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book, especially to folks who live in San Diego, are the characters who are well-known in our community.

The book tells the fascinating tale of Brent Corrigan (whose real name is Sean Paul Lockhart, which he uses when he performs in mainstream movies), the young porn star whose legal dispute with his studio boss (Kocis) rocked the gay-porn industry after the revelation that he appeared in his first four videos while only 17.

As the book points out, it was this notoriety surrounding the Brent Corrigan name that Cuadra and Kerekes hoped to capitalize on to jump-start their dying porn empire.

It's at this point that one of the more noteworthy episodes in this crime drama is described: In April 2007, Lockhart and his partner at the time Grant Roy agreed to assist police by luring Cuadra and Kerekes out of hiding and inviting them to San Diego.

The sting operation was arranged: Roy, wearing a "wire" under his shirt, managed to skillfully manipulate the killers into making several incriminatory statements during a lunch meeting at La Jolla's Crab Catcher restaurant.

However, worried that Roy might be wearing a wire, Cuadra and Kerekes refused to talk more about the murder until they were all "naked on the beach" the next day. They were referring to Black's Beach, the accessibility-challenged gay nude beach well-known to many in San Diego and beyond.

Sure enough, after everyone made their way to Black’s Beach and took off their clothes, the suspects opened up. Although they never stated who committed the murder (which means the mystery of which one of them actually killed Kocis remains to this day), they both said enough to leave absolutely no other possible implication than that they conspired to do it together. For example, at one point Cuadra states: "It was quick. He never, he never saw it coming."

While the nudity of Black’s Beach did indeed preclude either Lockhart or Roy from wearing a wire, that did not prevent police from coming up with a clever solution to the problem: a car key fob with a miniature recording device built into it. The key fob was placed by Roy on a beach blanket next to Cuadra and Kerekes ... and it recorded every word they said.

Shortly thereafter, Cuadra and Kerekes were arrested in connection with the murder of Kocis.

The trial dominates the second half the book

Almost the entire second half of the book deals with the Pennsylvania trial of Cuadra and Kerekes, in which the death penalty was on the table for both. It's a bit of an anticlimax, given the overwhelming amount of evidence against the pair.

Nevertheless, there were some interesting pre-trial twists and turns along the way towards inevitable conviction, including an unrelated prostitution prosecution in Virginia that seized most of the defendants' assets; amateurish attempts to establish false alibis; unbelievably foolhardy three-way prison phone conversations between the defendants, duly recorded by the authorities; and a plea bargain by one defendant on not terribly favorable terms (life in prison without the possibility of parole).

The book details the remaining defendant's desperate attempt to convince his partner to take the stand and take all blame (which backfires spectacularly), which forced him to make another desperate gamble: taking the stand in his own defense (which also backfires spectacularly). All of this makes for some surprisingly entertaining reading.

The aftermath

The book wraps up by detailing the fates of the various participants. Cuadra and Kerekes are both serving life sentences for murder in the Pennsylvania penal system. Lockhart and Roy have gone on to pursue their own film-related careers separately here in San Diego.

Lockhart, for example, can be seen in "Welcome To New York," a short film produced and director by gay filmmaker Steven Tylor O'Connor that is co-billed with "Gaby" at FilmOut San Diego's Pride screening at 7 pm Wednesday, July 18, at the Birch North Park Theatre.

Since Lockhart and Roy are well-known members of the local community (and this reporter knows them slightly), SDGLN reached out to Lockhart and Roy for any thoughts they wished to share regarding this new book.

Roy had a rather extensive amount of commentary about this book, which due to its length will be published here on SDGLN at a later date.

“I haven’t read the book, but I definitely lived it!” Lockhart said, adding that he has signed a book deal of his own and is eager to bring his version of events to readers in the not-too-distant future.

Lockhart also recently gave a video interview about his experiences with the case and the trial:


The details

Paperback: 5½ x 8¼, 336 pp

Photos: 28 B&W

eBook: Kindle & NOOK

Publisher: Magnus Books

Language: English

ISBN: 978 -1-936833-01-6

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