news

Student murdered simply because he was gay, says prosecutors

Blaze Bernstein went missing in January and was found in a shallow grave with 19 stab wounds

2018-08-03

A University of Pennsylvania student was murdered simply because he was gay, prosecutors announced.

Blaze Bernstein went missing while visiting his parents’ home in California back in January and was found one week later in a shallow grave in a park with 19 stab wounds.

Samuel Woodward, 21, was arrested on suspicion of murder and told authorities that Bernstein had kissed him and he had pushed him away before they went to the park together.

Police combed through Woodward’s cellphone, laptop and social media and found hateful materials against a range of groups.

They determined that there was substantial evidence that the alleged white supremacist targeted Bernstein because he was gay as well as Jewish.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas revealed that the material found was racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic and homophobic.

He said: “There could be other charges filed as evidence develops.

“There’s a lot there that just spews hatred towards a lot of different groups of people, basically every protected group.

“So it’s hatred of many different groups of people. But the evidence of the motivation for this particular killing is we can show evidence that he killed him at least substantially because he was gay.”

Now Woodward will have hate crime charges added to his pre-existing murder charge and has pleaded not guilty to the murder.

He is being held of a $5 million bail and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing this month, the Mail Online reported.

With the change, Woodward faces a maximum potential sentence of life without parole.

He previously faced a maximum sentence of 26 years to life in prison if he were convicted.

Under California law, prosecutors can seek the death penalty when a victim is killed because of race, religion or nationality, but not sexual orientation.