California Police say that the murder of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein is now a confirmed hate crime.
21-year-old Samuel Woodward is currently under investigation after being tied to the disappearance and death of former classmate Bernstein.
Bernstein was home in California while on Winter break from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The two allegedly arranged to meet on the night of Bernstein’s disappearance. His body was then later found in a park and police tied Woodword to the incident.
Now, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas says that homophobia and hate led to the murder, according to WSB-TV2.
A hate crime sentencing enhancement has been added to Woodward’s charge, but Rackauckas and Orange County police refuse to share the details of the evidence that led to this change.
According to ABC News, all Rackauckas was willing to share was that they looked through his cell phone, laptop, and social media. What they discovered was racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and homophobic.
"We have no room for this kind of hate in our society," Rackauckas told reporters in a statement.
"There's a lot there that just spews hatred towards a lot of different groups of people, basically every protected group," he added. "So it's hatred of many different groups of people. But the evidence of the motivation for this particular killing is we can show evidence that he killed him at least substantially because he was gay."
Rackauckas also would not address the earlier reported allegations that Woodword was connected to a neo-Nazi group. He instead asked anyone with any information showing such a link to report it to the authorities.
"There could be other charges filed as evidence develops," he said.
Samuel Woodward has pleaded not guilty to the murder and is currently being held on $5 million bail.
With these added hate crime charges, Woodward could be facing up to life in prison. His preliminary hearing is on August 22.
h/t: WSB-TV2, ABC News