A movie about a brutal murder by some money-hungry gay porn producers desperate to work with the freshest meat on the scene sounds too surreal to be a true story, but King Cobra is shockingly based on real events.
Sean Paul Lockhart (stage name: Brent Corrigan) started off as shining new twink in the gay adult industry and eventually became an unwitting catalyst for a gut-wrenchingly grisly murder. Read all about the toxic cauldron of envy, ambition and passion that led to producer Bryan Kocis's death in detail below.
Sean Paul Lockhart entered the world of gay porn after a turbulent childhood and through the coercion of others. As is depressingly common, he was also underage at just 17 years old.
Born in Idaho, Lockhart was raised with this three siblings (one older brother and a younger brother and sister) by his mother and stepfather in Mill Creek, near Seattle, Washington. When his mother and stepfather's relationship broke down when he was around nine, the family he knew was dissolved and Sean's mother relocated her children to her hometown of San Diego, California.
In around 2003, after years of struggling with his sexuality, Lockhart met his first boyfriend at 16 and began sneaking away to indulge in hedonistic nights in LA. Although initially it was all in good fun, the "fast, furious, out of control side to the gay scene" began to make Sean feel uncomfortable.
By the time Lockhart was 17, he felt like he had no way of earning money or any prospects for the future. This feeling of hopelessness led to Sean agreeing to take part in a webcam interview with a gay porn company that was arranged by his boyfriend.
The man on the other end of the camera, Bryan Kocis, clearly liked what he saw because after a few minutes he signed Lockhart up for six "action video scenes" and one "non-action" video. Kocis would be Lockhart's first on-screen sexual partner. The price? A used Volkswagen Jetta, a set of tires and rims and cash for gas and insurance.
Bryan and Sean continued a sexual relationship until one day Lockhart felt he was morally obliged to explain he lied about his age. Kocis implied that it would be Lockhart who would be in trouble, not him, and the pair stopped sleeping together before Sean was 18.
Kocis had also been previously charged with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy after police discovered a videotape of them having sex at his home. Because the boy had lied about his age, Bryan was given a probation sentence. In 2006 the sentence was changed to "corruption of a minor."
The Cage Of Cobra Copyright
Soon the newly christened Brent Corrigan was one of most desired new faces on the gay scene, but despite offers of work from every corner of the industry, Corrigan's all important name was under dispute from the head of Cobra videos, Bryan Kocis.
During this time, Corrigan made it clear on his own personal blog that he wasn't happy working with Cobra and he felt coerced into performing certain sex acts he didn't want to do. In one entry, the then 19-year-old candidly wrote:
Every scene Bryan has had me shoot with him he insists on making the boys cum in my face. I HATE CUM IN MY FACE. I hate it. Bryan knew I hated it. I don’t care how many people out there think its hot, it sucks to do it on set. On top of it, I have somewhat of a sensitive skin type. Each time it happens, my face becomes irritated and red after the shoot. So basically every time you see a picture with cum on my face, just know that I’m unhappy doing it. I’m sure this is why since my falling out with Cobra Video; Bryan has made it a point to put a considerable more amount of pictures out there with cum on my face. Porn is hot, but I think most of you would agree its not hot anymore when it becomes apparent those involved in it are not enjoying it.
Despite the complication of the copyright on his all-important porn name, Corrigan also worked for other studios — for example, he starred in six pornographic movies with Falcon Studios under the name of Fox Ryder.
Cold, Hard Cash And Status
The real reason that Bryan Kocis was murdered is still not entirely clear, but the motives behind the attack — so severe that it resulted in partial decapitation — were definitely financial.
Enter Joe Kerekes and Harlow Cuadra. The couple — who met on a Yahoo gay chat in 2001 — both formerly worked as escorts before starting their own amateur gay porn company named boybatter.com.
According the Peter Conway, author of the book Cobra Killer, the reason why they committed the murder came down to two things: cold, hard cash and status. He explained to NewsChannel 3 that:
"Things seemed to be doing pretty well for them, because Harlow was driving a Viper and Joe was driving a Corvette, but they were going through it faster than it was coming in. They were starting to fall behind on their bills. They had over a million dollars’ worth of bills that they were paying. They had to make about $3,900 a day just to stay afloat."
Fixated on the meteoric success of Brent Corrigan, the pair cooked up a plan to get rid of Kocis so they could make a highly profitable pornographic flick with Brent and not have to share the spoils.
"They came up with this wild idea that if they killed Bryan, there would be no need for the contract between Sean and Bryan any longer and they would make the millions that they thought they would."
Predictably, this murderous half-baked plan didn't work out for anybody.
Although it is unclear exactly what happened the night where Bryan Kocis was slain in 2007, some gruesome details are certain.
According to the investigating coroner, Bryan was stabbed 28 times and his throat was cut with such ferocity that he was nearly decapitated. In order to try and conceal the evidence, Kocis's house was set on fire and his body was burned beyond recognition. Dental records were used to identify the murdered man.
A few months after the barbaric crime had taken place, Joe Kerekes and Harlow Cuadra had been identified as suspects due to evidence found on a computer that survived the blaze.
In Kerekes's own chilling words in a phone interview with NewsChannel3:
"We were blurred and blinded by greed, and we thought that we were Gods. Even the movie with James Franco got it wrong. We did not do any of this because we were in debt. We did this because we wanted more, and we thought we could get away with it."
Kerekes pleaded guilty to second-degree murder among other charges and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. His accomplice, Cuadra, pleaded not guilty and went to trial on February 24, 2009. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole on March 16. Cuadra continues to appeal his sentence.
Brent Corrigan himself was never accused of having any links to the crime and police have noted that he diligently helped with their enquiries from the outset. He spoke out about his experiences surrounding the murder in the video below:
The Real People Behind 'King Cobra' Speak Out
Due to the controversial content of King Cobra, it is understandable that some of the key players in its narrative have chosen to speak out about James Franco's latest project.
Sean Paul Lockhart himself has chosen to distance himself from the project, despite being approached, in order to focus on retelling the story in his own words. The now 29-year-old explained on a Facebook post that:
The internet has been a buzz regarding some recent news that a movie is being filmed right now in New York State chronicling the Bryan Kocis murder and the early days of my adult career. I was originally approached to be a part of the film as a consultant and the cast. I was asked to play a small part in the film and declined the role. Ultimately, I chose to move forward with my own plans to finally release my book in place of taking part in someone else’s presentation of events that I personally lived as a young adult. It’s going to be an exciting coming year! The book is nearly finished and is now going through edits and rewrites. Even with the time that has passed, the memories are still very real and raw for me.
Joseph Kerkes, one of the killers, has also seen the movie from behind bars and was impressed with how Franco and co. captured his air of desperation:
"[The movie] is very, very lifelike and very true. Even some of the quotes, I have no idea how they captured them. When you think you can get away with anything, you will try anything."
Now that you know the shocking true story of King Cobra, check out how the cast measures up to the real people who inspired their characters below.