Office of the District Attorney - Maggie Fleming, District Attorney
July 2, 2021
On July 1, 2021, a Humboldt County jury found Brandon Matthew Watson, age 29, of Arcata, guilty of one count of first-degree murder for the homicide of Peter “Bo” Triantos and two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon. The jury also found true the special allegations that Watson personally caused great bodily injury and personally used a deadly weapon.
The case arose from two separate incidents in which Watson approached strangers at a bar, started a fight with them, and ultimately stabbed them. The first incident occurred outside the Pearl in Eureka on February 14, 2016, when Antony Bessellieu-Hill and Brian Edwards were out celebrating Valentine’s Day with their significant others. At a point when the two men were in front of the bar discussing local gang activity, Watson overheard the conversation and aggressively inserted himself into their discussion. Watson claimed to be a gang member and tried to educate the pair on gangs. When they conveyed their lack of interest in Watson’s comments, he responded by punching Mr. Edwards in the face. Mr. Edwards then took Watson to the ground, but bouncers quickly broke up the fight. The bouncers then escorted Mr. Bessellieu-Hill and Mr. Edwards out the back of the bar, with the goal of avoiding further interaction with Watson. Unfortunately, Watson and others were waiting in the alley behind the bar, and both Mr. Edwards and Mr. Bessellieu-Hill were stabbed multiple times. Fortunately, they both survived their injuries, albeit with severe physical and mental complications.
In the initial investigation of this incident, neither victim could identify that Mr. Watson had a knife. Mr. Bessellieu-Hill indicated that another, unidentified individual had a knife and had initially stabbed him in the abdomen. However, Mr. Bessellieu-Hill was able to testify that Watson was the only person to strike him multiple times in the back, and those strikes were in the same location as the stab wounds in his back. When Watson was cross-examined as to who initially stabbed Mr. Bessellieu-Hill, Watson refused to answer the question despite the Court’s direct order to answer the question. He testified that he “didn’t see how it was relevant” to identify the other person that stabbed Mr. Bessellieu-Hill. Watson admitted to stabbing Mr. Edwards.
The second incident occurred outside the Jam in Arcata on October 25, 2018, when Bo Triantos and Sage Rios were standing in front of the Jam. Watson approached Mr. Rios and began a conversation that involved Watson again claiming to be a gang member. When Mr. Triantos laughed at this claim, Watson punched him in the face. The three fought briefly before being separated, but they continued yelling at each other after the fight.
Video surveillance from local businesses captured the ensuing events. Mr. Triantos walked into an alley in apparent preparation for a fistfight with Watson. However, once in the alley, Watson proceeded to pull out a knife and stab Mr. Triantos multiple times, including a fatal strike to the abdomen. Watson immediately fled the scene.
Eureka Police Department Detective Sgt. (ret.) Kay Howden and Detective (ret.) John Gordon led the investigation into the assault on Mr. Edwards and Mr. Bessellieu-Hill. Arcata Police Department Detectives Luke Scown and Victoria Johnson led the investigation of Mr. Triantos’ death. Their investigations were assisted by numerous officers and evidence technicians with the Eureka and Arcata Police Departments.
Deputy District Attorney Roger C. Rees prosecuted the case with assistance from District Attorney Investigator Braden Brawner, and victim advocates Holly Hensher and Caitlyn LaHaie. Anakalia Sullivan represented Mr. Watson. Judge Lawrence Killoran presided over the month-long jury trial.
Mr. Watson is scheduled for sentencing on August 16, 2021. He faces a maximum of life in prison, with an initial parole eligibility date up to 35 years away. Because he was convicted of murder, Mr. Watson will serve every day of his sentence.
District Attorney Maggie Fleming commented on the trial, “Once again, the willingness of witnesses to come forward created the opportunity to achieve justice - I appreciate their decision to participate. I also appreciate the exceptional efforts of the jury, especially under the unique conditions created by the pandemic.”