In 2016 Jessica Devnani was dating Gregory Bender, a successful hedge fund manager, who lived near Orlando, Florida. What Jessica didn’t know at the time was that Greg had been keeping a secret from her. The secret would be exposed while he was recovering from a medical procedure at a local hospital. What happened in that room would lead to events that would forever change lives.
Devnani had met Bender online in 2009. He was 42 years old and Devnani was nearly 20 years his junior. “He had a very charismatic personality. He was very intelligent,” Devnani said. “It felt like we’d known each other all our lives … he became my best friend.”
As their romance developed, Devnani says she noticed Bender had a streak of jealousy in him and sometimes it would escalate to verbal threats. “I never feared what he could do to me, but I feared what he could do to other men,” she said. Despite his flaws, she remained with him and eventually they got engaged. Devnani tells her story exclusively to “48 Hours,” inreported by Peter Van Sant.
A few years after their engagement, Devnani was confronted with a shocking twist in their relationship. Bender had undergone a procedure and, while he was recuperating in the ICU, Devnani decided to drop by for a surprise visit. When she entered his room, another woman was there. That woman was Daymara Sanchez, his wife at the time. “I was like, ‘what is she doing here?’ and she’s like, ‘What are you doing here? And I told her I’m like his fiancée and I showed her the ring. And then she showed me her ring. She’s like, ‘I’m his wife!'” Devnani recalled.
Devnani says she was devastated by the news. “My heart just dropped. I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock,” she said.
Several days passed before Bender finally contacted Devnani to explain the situation. He told her it was strictly a marriage of convenience so he could help the woman’s son attend a better school district. Jessica says she took him back, but she issued an ultimatum – he had to divorce his wife.
However, for months, Bender stalled and Devnani says she eventually dumped him. A month later, in June 2017, she met 25-year-old Patrick De La Cerda on a dating app. “I was afraid that he would find out about our relationship.” Devnani said.
Devnani says Bender learned about her new relationship with De La Cerda from Facebook. She said that’s when Bender started messaging De La Cerda and threatening him. Within months, Devnani says Bender would leave alarming messages to them both. In one voicemail for Devnani, Bender said, “I’m giving instructions. And I’m going to have my plan put into action.”
Eventually both Devnani and De La Cerda had enough, and Devnani asked a judge for a restraining order against Bender. The order, issued in December 2017, stated Bender could not contact Devnani, and he had to hand over his firearms.
The couple were now excited about their future without the looming threat of Bender, says Devnani. By the end of 2017, De La Cerda proposed to Devnani. De La Cerda presented Devnani with a temporary engagement ring, while he waited for the delivery of a ring he had designed.
But the day De La Cerda would give Devnani that ring never came. On February 27, 2018, Jessica received two unexpected calls from Bender. Fearing for De La Cerda’s safety, she tried to reach him, but he didn’t answer his phone. That’s when she rushed over to De La Cerda’s home, and found him dead in a pool of blood.
Soon after sheriff’s deputies arrived, Devnani told them about Bender. Another break in the case came when a detective got a tip from another woman in Bender’s life: Bender’s now ex-wife, Daymara Sanchez, the woman Devnani says she met visiting Bender at the hospital years earlier.
Daymara, who had watched news reports about De La Cerda’s murder, told investigators about a “murder plan” she had found which she says Bender wrote laying out a plot to kill De La Cerda. “Once she told us about the murder plan, that gave us what we needed to get into the house to see, you know, what else was in there,” lead detective Chad Weaver of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.
Once there, investigators were stunned to find a, similar to the one Sanchez described, crumpled up in the trash can in Bender’s home office. They also found ammunition and a shell casing similar to the rounds found at the crime scene. Weaver said those discoveries gave them enough probable cause to get an arrest warrant for Bender for De La Cerda’s murder.
When Bender’s trial began in May 2021, Devnani and Sanchez, the two women who at one time were at the center of his life, would once again come face to face, but this time to testify against him.