Samuel Woodward, age 21, stabbed Blaze Bernstein, age 19, a University of Pennsylvania student, 20 times in a park in January after luring him out on the premise that it was a date. In September, he was charged with murder and a hate crime, and DNA evidence was cited as proof on a knife and bloody sleeping bag.
Prosecutors said Woodward had anti-gay and anti-Semitic messages on his phone, and connection to Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group.
A month after Woodward was taken into custody, ProPublica published a report linking Woodward to the Atomwaffen Division, which celebrated his alleged involvement in the homicide.
CBS’s “48 Hours” interviewed a former member of the hate group, who said:
“He killed a Jew. Like, was there a party No, but like did people joke about it Yeah. Everyone celebrated him. Everyone in the hate group this man belonged to. They say they are Nazis. And they rejoiced for one of their own, Sam Woodward.”
The hate group, embraces a “Third Reich ideology” toward LGBT people and people of color, and a propaganda poster posted on the Discord messaging app even encourages LGBT people to take their own lives: “Follow your fellow faggots. 30 percent of suicides are LGBT related.”
Another user named Khimaere said: “Samuel ‘Gay Jew Wrecking Crew’ Woodward. That’s his new name.”
Woodward was initially held on $5M bail, but on Friday, Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Menninger decided to remove the possibility of bail entirely. “I do believe it would be a danger to others in the community, based on preliminary hearing transcripts,” she said in court.
Woodward plead not guilty.
Woodward is scheduled back in court on January 25. If found guilty of murder with a hate crime count, he could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Without the hate crime conviction, he’d face a maximum of 26 years to life.
Raiah Rofsky, a former classmate of both young men, said she saw Woodward drawing guns in a notebook during class and said he had a reputation of being “a crazy, homophobic, racist guy.”
“The only reason I could think of Sam meeting up with Blaze is because either number one, he wanted to hook up with him, or two, because he was planning to murder him,” Rofsky said.
CBS’s “48 Hours” released an episode called “In the Name of Hate,” profiling the case, and featuring Bernstein’s friends and family sharing memories of his life and their grief.
It aired two weeks after the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh to highlight anti-Semitic prevalence.