What is the dark web?
About five months ago, Beau Evan Brigham logged on to the dark web to hire a hitman to murder his stepmother, who lives on the Central Coast, San Luis Obispo police tell CBS News in an upcoming episode of its true-crime show “48 Hours.”
“This person is evil,” Brigham allegedly wrote in his internet “kill order.” “Look, I need this f------ person dead.”
“48 Hours: Click for a Killer,” which airs at 9 p.m. Saturday, explores the mysterious world of murder for hire on the dark web, examining hitmen who advertise their services online. (Such sites can only be accessed via special software, allowing users and operators to remain virtually untraceable.)
Saturday’s two-hour season premiere begins with an in-depth investigation into the 2016 murder of Minnesota dog trainer Amy Allwine.
Working with London cybersecurity expert Chris Monteiro to identify other murder-for-hire plots involving Yura, a shadowy figure who claims to lead a massive online network of hitmen known alternately as Cosa Nostra or Besa Mafia, “48 Hours” correspondent Peter Van Sant and his team also look into cases in Tennessee, Taiwan, India, Iran, Singapore and the Chicago suburbs — giving tips to law enforcement agencies leading to four arrests in six months.
“It’s quite remarkable the number of people who want other people murdered,” Van Sant told The Tribune on Thursday.
The final 20 or so minutes of “Click for a Killer” are dedicated to the case against Beau Brigham, a 32-year-old Riverside resident charged with soliciting someone to kill his stepmom, Laurie, who lives in San Luis Obispo. He’s pleaded not guilty.
Dark web leads to SLO
According to CBS News, the investigation into Beau Brigham, a cinematographer who specializes in wedding and action sports videos via his Bay Area company, BeauFlix, started with a tip from Monteiro to the “48 Hours” team.
“He was watching in real time as customers would communicate with the head of the (Cosa Nostra) website, Yura,” via encrypted, anonymous messages, Van Sant said.
During one such conversation, Monteiro told CBS News in early May, someone ordered a hit on Laurie. (The Tribune is not using Laurie’s full name because she is the alleged victim of a crime.)
The messages, which police believe Beau Brigham wrote, feature a picture of his stepmother and describes her and her car in detail.
According to Van Sant, they also give specific instructions for the manner in which her murder should be carried out: “Do not go through with the job unless it can be done as an extreme clear accident because it will be very easily traceable.”
“This person is very, very serious about having Laurie killed,” Monteiro told CBS News.
Armed with that information, CBS News reached out to San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow, who referred the case to the San Luis Obispo Police Department.
San Luis Obispo police detectives Anthony Pellouso and Suzie Walsh then contacted Laurie.
“I said, ‘Is there someone that would want you dead?’ That was an absolute shock to her,” Walsh told CBS News.
Nonetheless, San Luis Obispo police say, Laurie had a suspect in mind: her younger stepson, Beau.
“He had a clear intent to have (Laurie) murdered,” Walsh told CBS News.
A family in conflict
According to “48 Hours,” Beau Brigham and his stepmother became estranged following the death of his father, Saratoga bar and nightclub owner Jeff Brigham, in 2011. Beau Brigham and his older brother, Brandon, sued their stepmother in 2015, CBS News says, winning a “significant judgment” against her.
In addition, Beau Brigham harbored anger stemming from the belief that his stepmother hadn’t financially supported him as he struggled with serious health problems, Van Sant said.
“She left her own son to f------ die for four years. Who does that?” Brigham told CBS News’ Van Sant in an interview conducted Monday at San Luis Obispo County Jail.
Authorities say two pieces of evidence tie Brigham directly to the crime.
As the San Luis Obispo County Central Coast Cyber Forensic Laboratory told CBS News, Brigham downloaded a Tor brower, used to maintain anonymity and access censored content online, onto his iPhone.
In addition, San Luis Obispo police told CBS News that Brigham sent the equivalent of $3.50 to $5 in bitcoin, a popular cryptocurrency, to Yura as a tiny down payment for the hit. He allegedly purchased that bitcoin from a website that requires users to register with photo IDs.
“In this case, Beau Brigham uploaded a picture of his California driver’s license,” Pellouso told CBS News.
San Luis Obispo police eventually tracked down Brigham to Palm Desert, where his biological mother, Alexis Brigham, lives.
A suspect arrested
When detectives confronted Beau Brigham at his mother’s Palm Desert home, he allegedly admitted to ordering the hit.
“He finally says, ‘You’re right. OK, I did it. I sent those (messages),’” Pellouso told CBS News.
Palm Desert police arrested Brigham on Aug. 9. Brigham was transferred to San Luis Obispo County Jail on Aug. 14; he was being held at the jail Thursday in lieu of a $1 million bail.
At an Aug. 16 arraignment, Brigham pleaded not guilty to one felony count of soliciting murder.
Brigham’s defense attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, told The Tribune on Wednesday that he’s confident his client will be exonerated in court.
“When we go to trial, I think my client will be vindicated quickly,” Funke-Bilu said. “He’s not guilty, and we’re going to fight this as vigorously as we can and as heartily as we can.”
Funke-Bilu added that he’s retained the services of a local physician who is currently examining Brigham’s medical records — “eight binders worth of extensive medical history that says Beau has documented (issues),” the attorney said. The doctor plans to visit Brigham at the jail soon.
“He’s a very weak individual medically and also had psychological issues that interplayed with the medical issues back and forth,” Funke-Bilu said of Brigham.
Funke-Bilu wouldn’t say how he planned to use the medical information to make his case in court.
During Monday’s jailhouse interview, Brigham at one point told Van Sant that he has no memory of going on Yura’s murder-for-hire site. But then, later, he came seemingly close to a confession.
“There was only one way to get anyone’s f------ attention and to do something stupid on a f------ site was the only way,” he told Van Sant in “Click for a Killer.”
“So you admit you went on this site?” Van Sant asked.
“I can’t remember doing it. I can’t remember,” Brigham replied.
But his mother told CBS News that her son did reach out to Yura to order a hit on his stepmother.
“He never ever wants anything to happen to her at all. He was just angry,” Alexis Brigham told Van Sant in “Click for a Killer.”
Beau Brigham will next appear in court on Oct. 2 for a pre-preliminary hearing, followed by a preliminary hearing on Oct. 5.
Meanwhile, Van Sant said, the “48 Hours” investigation into murder-for-hire schemes on the dark web will continue. A follow-up to “Click for a Killer” may be in the works, he said.
“Journalistically, I’ve never had an experience like this where we have been on the cutting edge of information where we are notifying law enforcement,” Van Sant said. “This information is so important, and lives are at stake.”
“48 Hours: Click for a Killer” airs at 9 p.m. Saturday on KCOY. (“48 Hours” typically airs at 10 p.m. Saturdays.)
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