The California murder of a University of Pennsylvania student is now being treated as a hate crime after it was revealed he was allegedly killed because he was gay.
Samuel Woodward, 21, was already charged with the murder of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, but now a hate crime charge will be added, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.
The new addition means Woodward could now face life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Bernstein disappeared in Orange Country, where his family lived, on Jan. 2 and was found dead days later in a shallow grave at Borrego Park.
He had been stabbed 20 times in what authorities previously said was an “act of rage.”
Woodward, who went to Orange County School of the Arts with Bernstein, was charged with murder on Jan. 17.
Bernstein was home on winter break from UPenn at the time of the slaying.
The Orange County Register reported that Woodward told police Bernstein tried to kiss him on the night of the murder.
Rackauckas said authorities found “hateful materials” against a range of groups and substantial evidence that Bernstein was killed because he was gay.
“We have no room for this kind of hate in our society,” Rackauckas told reporters.
Bernstein had reportedly not come out to his parents as gay but they previously told the Los Angeles Times they had an idea.
Woodward has pleaded not guilty and is being held on $5 million bail.