NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — A California man denied killing a University of Pennsylvania student because the victim was gay and the suspect's lawyer says he struggled with his own sexual identity and suffered from a "serious mental disorder."

The Orange County Register reports Samuel Woodward appeared in court Wednesday and denied an added hate-crime attachment.

He's pleaded not guilty to murder for the killing of 19-year-old sophomore Blaze Bernstein, whose body was discovered buried in a park after he disappeared in January.

Woodward's lawyer, Edward Munoz, said Woodward suffers from a "serious mental disorder."

He says the 21-year-old has Asperger syndrome, a developmental disorder that general causes affected children and adults to have difficulty with social interactions.

Munoz told BuzzFeed News that Woodward "has a lot of issues, I think, around sexual orientation."