In a case regarding a workplace disagreement, Bazen Berhe, a 25-year-old ex-employee of Target in Bailey’s Crossroads, Virginia, received a sentence of 100 years, with 30 years suspended, for the premeditated murder of his co-worker, 58-year-old janitor Hernan Leiva. The sentencing took place on Tuesday, January 30, 2024.
The incident occurred in April 2021 and was rooted in Berhe’s conviction that Leiva had stolen his lunch from the office fridge.
For several days, Berhe methodically plotted his retaliation, buying a hammer and two knives from the store where both men were employed. Berhe allegedly spent a day “training for murder,” according to police reports, before implementing his plan.
On the morning of April 17, Berhe waited in the Target employee parking lot for Leiva to arrive. Upon Leiva’s arrival, Berhe launched his attack, stabbing and beating him to death before fleeing the scene. He later turned himself in to the police, instantly admitting to the crime.
During his sentencing in October 2023, Berhe issued a menacing statement, claiming he would inflict harm or even kill unless he received the maximum penalty.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano stated that this declaration influenced the sentencing decision, underlining the need for the sentence to ensure public safety in light of Berhe’s continued potential threat to society.
Leiva, originally from El Salvador and living in Falls Church, Virginia, with his partner Esperanza and their two sons, was recalled by his family as a remarkably hardworking individual and a cherished presence known for his humor.
Jesse Leiva, his son, in a GoFundMe campaign, commended his father as an “exemplary figure and beacon of light.”
Berhe’s acknowledgment of his actions and the evidence brought forth at trial depicted a premeditated attack, leading to a tragic loss of life sparked by a seemingly trivial disagreement.