In January, Blaze Bernstein, 19, was stabbed 20 times by former classmate Samuel Woodward while visiting his parents on winter break from college. His body was later found in a shallow grave in Southern California.
Woodward, who was reportedly known for his right-wing beliefs, was arrested in connection with the murder shortly afterward.
According to Pink News:
Bernstein, a pre-med student at UPenn, was openly gay, and according to a police statement, had tried to kiss Woodward on the night of the murder. According to the statement, Woodward “wanted to tell Blaze to get off him” and pushed him away before heading down to the park.
The two men met up in January while Bernstein was visiting his parents on his winter break. Bernstein’s body was found a week later in Anza-Borrego Park in a shallow grave but the exact time and place of the murder is still unknown.
DNA tests soon linked Woodward, 20, to the crime. Prosecution found that the accused had tried to clean his vehicle in order to get rid of DNA evidence linking him to the crime, and visited the crime scene days after Bernstein death. During his police interview, Woodward acted nervously and had scratches on his hands.
Now, the Orange County district attorney’s office has added a hate crime allegation to the case against Woodward, who already faces 26 years to life in prison. That means he could now (thankfully) spend life in prison without parole.
Bernstein’s parents, Gideon and Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, have been outspoken in the press about their son’s death, saying their son had been victim of a hate crime shortly after Woodward’s arrest.
“Our son was a beautiful gentle soul who we loved more than anything,” they said in a statement. “We were proud of everything he did and who he was. He had nothing to hide. We are in solidarity with our son and the LGBTQ community.”
“If it is determined that this was a hate crime, we will cry not only for our son, but for LGBTQ people everywhere that live in fear or who have been victims of hate crime,” they added.
Woodward is currently being held on $5 million bail and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on August 22. (via Pink News)