SANTA ANA, Calif. — The Latest on the killing of a 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania student in California (all times local):
A Southern California man has pleaded not guilty to killing a gay University of Pennsylvania student in a trial that’s prompted calls to change state murder laws.
Twenty-year-old Samuel Woodward entered the plea on Friday in Santa Ana. A judge set his bail at $5 million with special conditions that he must wear a monitor.
Authorities say the Newport Beach man stabbed 19-year-old sophomore Blaze Bernstein early this month and buried his body at a neighborhood park near the Bernstein family home in Lake Forest.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas says he doesn’t know whether Bernstein was killed because he was gay.
But the killing has prompted a push to change state law to include sexual orientation and gender as motivating factors for more serious murder charges.
The killing of a 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania student in California has prompted a push to change state law to include sexual orientation and gender as motivating factors for more serious murder charges.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said Friday that he didn’t know and wouldn’t discuss if Blaze Bernstein was killed because he was gay. But he says the investigation brought the issue to his attention.
State Sen. Janet Nguyen says she’s proposing legislation to make the change.
Rackauckas said a first-degree murder charge carries a sentence of 25 years to life, while a murder charge with special circumstances is eligible for the death penalty or a sentence of life without parole.
Authorities have charged 20-year-old Samuel Woodward with the killing. He is scheduled to be arraigned Friday.
A 20-year-old California man charged in the killing of a University of Pennsylvania student is due in court.
Samuel Woodward of Newport Beach is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday in Santa Ana.
Authorities say Woodward killed 19-year-old sophomore Blaze Bernstein and buried his body in a shallow grave at a neighborhood park not far from the Bernstein family home in Lake Forest.
Authorities say he was missing for a week after leaving the house with Woodward the night of Jan. 2.
Woodward is charged with murder and an enhancement for use of a knife. He is being held without bail.
Bernstein was gay and Jewish and authorities are investigating the possibility of a hate crime. He was home in California visiting his family for winter break.