Update: Neo-Nazi Fan and Prankster Accused of Stabbing Homosexual Student to Death to Stand Trial
Update 9/17/18, 6:21 P.M.
Neo Nazi’s Lawyer Steps Down as Court Date Pushed to November
Bail for Samuel Woodward, accused of stabbing 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein to death in January, has been set at $5 million, and Woodward needs a new lawyer.
Ed Munoz, who said last week that evidence would come out proving Woodward was sexually confused, stepped away from the job. The trial was pushed back to November, and in court Woodward requested a public defender.
Bernstein’s parents also spoke for the first time since their son’s death, after their son was laid to rest.
“We’re all God’s children and everyone should be loved alike regardless of what their sexual orientation is,” said Gideon Bernstein.
“[The community wants] so much to help us bring this boy back and we can’t. So how can we turn this into an opportunity that will be something beautiful”
“Even though my son can’t be brought back, there was a consequence,” said Jeanne Bernstein.
Samuel Lincoln Woodward, age 21, will be arraigned in court on Monday, according to court officials after being ordered to stand trial in Orange County Superior Court on murder and hate crime charges in the death of Blaze Bernstein. He could face life without parole if convicted.
Woodward allegedly stabbed 19-year-old Bernstein, a University of Pennsylvania pre-med student, nearly 20 times in the face and neck after the two met at a park in January, prosecutors said. During the initial hearing, prosecutors linked Woodward to the stabbing through DNA, and from a collection of homophobic and neo-Nazi material on his cellphone.
Woodward’s phone contained mention of his efforts to pose as “gay curious” to attract men and then reveal it as a prank. “That’s what they deserve,” he wrote using an anti-gay slur.
“We will prove that Woodward killed Blaze because Blaze was gay,” District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said, at a press conference in August.
According to investigator Chris Goldsmith, Woodward wrote on his phone to himself that he terrified gay men by sending them photos on the gay dating site Grindr of other gay men being killed. Two weeks before Bernstein was killed, Woodward wrote on Snapchat, next to an illustration of a bloody knife: “Texting is boring, but murder isn’t.”
A blood-stained knife was recovered, along with a blood stained watch and visor in Woodward’s car matched Bernstein. The chance of the genetic material coming from someone else was one in a trillion, forensic scientist Corrie Maggay testified.
Goldsmith testified that Woodward’s phone contained over 100 instances of content related to the violent hate group Atomwaffan, including their insignia as the phone’s wall paper. It also had pictures with Nazi references. Additionally, he chatted with hate group members about attending a Death Valley Hate Camp, mentioning weapons.
The two were high school classmates at the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, and they reconnected via social media. Bernstein had texted a photo of Woodward to a friend hoping to hook up with him.
“We have this bright young soul with the world at his fingertips and then all of a sudden, they’re gone,” the victim’s father, Gideon Bernstein, said.
“He was learning to love himself and I think he was thereIt just tears me up. He was ready. He was ready to just be himself and be proud,” the victim’s mother, Jeanne Bernstein, said.
Woodward picked Berstein up from his home, after speaking via Snapchat earlier in the evening. Bernstein kissed Woodward on the mouth in the car, and Woodward grew angry.
Woodward clenched his jaw and his fists, saying “he wanted to tell Blaze to get off of him.”
Bernstein was found seven days later in a shallow grave in Borrego Park in Lake Forest.
Woodward has pleaded not guilty, and his defense lawyer, Edward Munoz, said this was not a hate crime because the messages of hate were not shared with anyone, but kept private on the phone.
Munoz also argued that Woodward revealed he had autism and was socially awkward and sexually confused.
“There’s going to be some evidence that comes out that shows he’s very confused,” he said.