Target Employee who Brutally Murdered Co-Worker Over Stolen Lunch is Sentenced

A former employee of a Target store in Virginia has been handed a 100-year prison sentence for the brutal murder of a co-worker he accused of stealing his lunch. Bazen Berhe, 25, was sentenced on Tuesday, with the judge suspending 30 years of the sentence, meaning Berhe will serve 70 years behind bars.

During the sentencing, Berhe made threats to harm or kill more people unless he received the maximum possible punishment, according to a statement from Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano. Berhe, a resident of Alexandria, was employed at the Bailey’s Crossroads Target store when he attacked and killed 58-year-old janitor Hernan Leiva in April 2021.

Berhe was charged with first-degree murder for the brutal killing, which he claimed was provoked by Leiva stealing his food from the office refrigerator on April 14. Berhe expressed his anger over the alleged theft and spent the following days planning his violent retaliation.

After his shift at Target the next day, Berhe purchased a hammer and a pair of knives. He told detectives that he spent the subsequent day “training for murder,” as per the press release. On April 17, Berhe waited in the Target employee parking lot for Leiva. When Leiva arrived for work, Berhe attacked him with his weapons, stabbing and beating him, before fleeing the scene.

Berhe returned to the parking lot shortly after and surrendered to the police officers who were investigating the crime. He immediately confessed to the murder of Leiva and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in October 2023.

Descano commented on the tragic and senseless death of Mr. Leiva, stating that it has left a grieving family and community that will never be the same. He added that the sentence was necessary due to the unique and self-proclaimed danger Berhe continues to pose to the community.

Leiva, originally from El Salvador, resided in Falls Church, Virginia, with his partner, Esperanza, and his two sons. His online obituary described him as an “extraordinarily hard worker and prominent figure to his family,” who was loved for his sense of humor. His son, Jesse Leiva, described him as an “exemplary figure and beacon of light in your moment of darkness” in a GoFundMe campaign.