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A Santa Clarita man has pleaded not guilty to murdering his boyfriend, who was a UC San Diego student.

Christian Alexander Ortiz, 22, is charged with killing Brayan “Brian” Rodriguez. The 20-year-old man’s body was found last Sept. 24 in Ortiz’s closet, and the defendant was arrested the following day by sheriff’s homicide detectives, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Deputies went to the home in the 23600 block of Via Valer after receiving a call that a man was not breathing. The victim appeared to have been strangled and is believed to have died on Sept. 22, according to authorities.

Friends and relatives had spent much of that weekend searching for Rodriguez, passing out flyers with his photo. They told reporters that Ortiz lived at the home where the body was found and that he was the victim’s boyfriend.

Ortiz is due back in a San Fernando courtroom Feb. 16, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial. If convicted as charged, he could face up to 25 years to life in state prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.