California Man Convicted of Murdering Gay University of Fabulous Pennsylvania Great Student in 2018 Stabbing

By Jul 7, 2024

California Man Convicted of Murdering Gay University

California-In a landmark legal decision, Samuel Woodward, a 26-year-old from California, was convicted of first-degree murder with a hate crime enhancement on Wednesday. This conviction is for the brutal 2018 stabbing death of Blaze Bernstein, a gay University of Pennsylvania student. Bernstein, a 19-year-old sophomore, was home visiting his family in Southern California during his winter break when he went missing. Authorities discovered his body a week later in a shallow grave at Borrego Park, near his family’s home in Lake Forest.

California-The core issue during the extended trial was not whether Woodward killed Bernstein, but rather the motive and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Prosecutor Jennifer Walker highlighted Woodward’s affiliation with Atomwaffen Division, a violent, anti-gay, neo-Nazi extremist group, asserting that Woodward was driven by a deep-seated hatred.


California-The hate crime enhancement significantly impacts Woodward’s potential sentence, possibly leading to life imprisonment without parole. Ken Morrison, Woodward’s defense attorney, argued that his client neither planned to kill Bernstein nor harbored hatred toward anyone, aiming for a lesser charge such as second-degree murder or manslaughter. Morrison plans to appeal the conviction, citing key judicial rulings that he claims denied jurors access to critical evidence for a fair trial.

California-Bernstein’s family expressed their enduring grief in a heartfelt statement following the verdict. “No verdict can erase the pain of losing our son and the agony of waiting all of these years without resolution,” they told ABC News. They described Bernstein as an “amazing human and humanitarian,” a young man with a promising future as a scientist, artist, writer, chef, and compassionate individual.

California-Woodward and Bernstein had attended the same high school in Orange County and reconnected through a dating app months before the murder. According to trial testimony, Woodward picked up Bernstein and took him to Borrego Park, where the stabbing occurred after Woodward allegedly tried to seize Bernstein’s cellphone, fearing it contained incriminating photos.

California-Prosecutors presented evidence that Woodward had joined Atomwaffen Division and had been targeting gay men online, abruptly cutting off communication while maintaining a hateful, profanity-laced journal of his activities. They argued that Woodward had expressed interest in committing violent acts in the weeks leading up to the murder and had specifically reached out to Bernstein online.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer condemned Woodward’s actions, emphasizing that “hate will never be tolerated here in Orange County.” He declared Woodward a symbol of society’s intolerance towards those who terrorize vulnerable communities.

Morrison, in defense, portrayed Woodward as struggling with undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder, which complicated his personal relationships. Morrison suggested Woodward was confused about his sexuality due to growing up in a politically conservative, devout Catholic family with a father who openly criticized homosexuality.

The trial faced numerous delays due to questions about Woodward’s mental competency and multiple changes in his defense team. He was finally deemed competent to stand trial in late 2022.

The case began on a cold January night in 2018 when Bernstein went out with Woodward to Borrego Park, about 45 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Bernstein’s parents became alarmed when he missed a dentist appointment the following day and found his glasses, wallet, and credit cards in his room. Their attempts to contact him went unanswered, prompting them to alert authorities.

An exhaustive search ensued, with Bernstein’s family scouring his social media, discovering communications with Woodward on Snapchat. Woodward told investigators that Bernstein had left to meet a friend at the park and never returned.

Tragically, Bernstein’s body was discovered days later in a shallow grave. He had been stabbed repeatedly in the face and neck. A search of Woodward’s family home in Newport Beach uncovered a folding knife with a blood-stained blade in his room, a black Atomwaffen mask with traces of blood, and a collection of anti-gay, antisemitic, and hate group materials, according to prosecutors.

The trial, filled with emotional testimony and chilling evidence, ultimately centered on the motives of Samuel Woodward and the brutal loss of Blaze Bernstein. Bernstein’s murder highlighted the pervasive and violent nature of hate crimes and the insidious influence of extremist groups like Atomwaffen Division.

As the legal proceedings draw to a close, Bernstein’s family and the broader community continue to grapple with the loss and the enduring impact of this senseless act of violence. The conviction of Samuel Woodward serves as a reminder of the persistent threats posed by hate and the importance of unwavering vigilance and justice in the face of such atrocities.

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