A San Luis Obispo judge ruled Friday that the case against a man accused of trying to hire a hitman to murder his stepmother can go to trial.
At Beau Brigham’s preliminary hearing, investigators testified that he used the dark web in his search.
The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office said it got a tip from a national media outlet about the solicitation of murder involving Brigham’s stepmom, a resident of San Luis Obispo.
The District Attorney told KSBY an informant from England was able to hack into the dark web and access the information.
Brigham has pleaded not guilty to the crime.
On Friday, he sat in court and listened as testimony got underway. He did not show any emotion.
His mother and brother also sat and listened as witnesses took the stand before Judge Jesse Marino.
Detective Suzie Walsh testified about the relationship between Brigham and the victim, identified only as “LM.” She became involved in the case on May 3, 2018. Walsh said she received an email from the District Attorney’s Office with information from an informant about how Brigham allegedly tried to hire a hitman. Brigham reportedly provided the victim’s Social Security number, a vehicle he thought she drove, and two different San Luis Obispo addresses. The addresses turned out to be incorrect, so it was difficult for detectives to track her down but when they did, she was safe. Walsh said the email also included a cropped photo of LM that Brigham allegedly sent to a murder-for-hire site on the dark web.
In a police report dating back to May, LM told Walsh she couldn’t think of anyone off the top of her head who would want to harm her except her stepsons, Beau and Brandon, who may be wealthier in her absence since they’d be left with all the money in the family trust.
Walsh testified that LM raised Brigham from a young age. In 2011, her husband – Beau and Brandon’s father – died from a massive heart attack.
The family relationship reportedly went south after that. Walsh said LM became responsible for the bars and restaurants her late husband owned. She ended up losing two of them and the brothers sued her. They won.
Walsh testified that they cut all ties shortly after but LM said Beau Brigham still tried to contact her on several occasions. The last time she saw her stepsons was in 2013.
Walsh said that in an email Brigham wrote to the victim, he said that LM needed to visit him and that his “ALS had progressed with cancer.”
LM didn’t believe he was telling the truth, according to Detective Walsh. Another investigator testified that Brigham was never officially diagnosed with any illness.
A forensic specialist with the San Luis Obispo Police Department also testified that Beau Brigham had an application on his cell phone that allows a user to change currency into Bitcoin, a way to anonymously exchange money. He reportedly admitted to signing up for the account and used his driver’s license to do so.
Investigators said there was also evidence that Brigham had been exchanging data on the dark web, a part of the internet that’s unreachable through search engines like Google. According to testimony, data was exchanged on 40 different dates on dark web browsers.
At least one website saved on Brigham’s cell phone also reportedly had to do with hiring a hitman. According to testimony, Brigham admitted to sending messages to the website to find a hitman.
During testimony, Brigham’s motive was also discussed. Investigators said Brigham said it was out of rage and that he was close to death for four years. He accused LM of leaving him to die. He reportedly said that a couple of weeks into it, he realized what he was doing and didn’t want to harm LM, pointed out the defendant’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, during cross-examination.
As for the informant, investigators say for the last two years, Chris Monteiro, a London cybersecurity expert, had been attempting to disprove murder-for-hire sites and wanted to expose them as fraud. He said they took people’s money and never followed through in harming the victim.
At the end of the hearing, the judge also issued a gag order, meaning anyone involved in the case cannot comment to the media.