Crime & Justice

Suspect pleads not guilty to killing college student Blaze Bernstein

File: Gideon and Jeanne Bernstein, parents of missing teen Blaze Bernstein, pictured left, are joined by Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Brad Valentine, right, during a news conference in Lake Forest on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018.
File: Gideon and Jeanne Bernstein, parents of missing teen Blaze Bernstein, pictured left, are joined by Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Brad Valentine, right, during a news conference in Lake Forest on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018.
Amy Taxin/AP

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.