California Neo-Nazi on Trial Facing Hate Crime Charges and Murder of Gay Classmate

Samuel Woodward, an accused murderer, is facing trial in California beginning Tuesday, April 16th. Prosecutors working on the case are hoping to tack on a hate crime charge as well as the original murder charge.

On Trial

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Woodward, who is now 26, is accused of stabbing classmate Blaze Bernstein back in January of 2018. Bernstein was a young gay Jewish man, which might have been the reason for Woodward’s attack.

Nefarious Affiliations

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The defendant is supposedly known to be affiliated with Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group.  The prosecution declares that Woodward is also responsible for burying the body as an act to cover up the evidence.

A Successful Student

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Bernstein was only 19 at the time of his death. He was enrolled at UPenn and was only visiting family in Lake Forest, CA before he was killed. Bernstein was working as the managing editor for his school’s culinary magazine and was praised for his writing talents

Following the Lead

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Suspicions automatically pointed to Woodward, as the two had been in communication the night prior to Bernstein’s death. Woodward confessed that the two had been together, but had gone separate ways after an attempted kiss went south. 

Brought in for Questioning

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Police picked up the potential suspect and brought him to back to the police station. hard evidence was able to be linked to Woodward while he was in for questioning. During the time in custody, officers noted several details about Woodward’s appearance.

Dirty Hands

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Chiefly, cuts on his arms and dirt under his fingernails. This was used as grounds for suspicion to investigate further. Following up, officers reportedly discovered a knife, as well as a sleeping bag, in Woodward’s possession that was covered in Bernstein’s blood.

An Academic Connection

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Bernstein and Woodward were not reported to be close. Their only connection had been attending Orange County School for the Arts together. Bernstein was credited with being a strong academician, while Woodward was seen as a loner.

Terroristic Behavior

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Woodward’s involvement with the Atomwaffen Division was reported to be as far back as 2016, His digital footprint identifies a history of racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic sentiments. 

Bad to the Extreme

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The Atomwaffen Division is a global far-right extremist group. The organization was founded in 2013 and since then, has been labeled as a terrorist group by numerous governing bodies.

A Global Threat

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Atomwaffen Division has been tied to multiple criminal acts such as bombings, murders, and planned terrorist attacks. Their reach spans from the US out as far as Argentina and the Baltics.

Ties to January 6th

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Several news channels pinpoint them in various schemes like the attempt to attack Baltimore’s power grid and involvement in the January 6th insurrection. The headquarters for the group is based in Texas.

Online Spark

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The relationship origins between the two is murky, but is reported to have begun via online communication. The two had little reason to be in contact as no close relationship was known previously.

Questioning Sexuality

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The online conversation eventually prompted a face-to-face meeting. While Woodward’s sexual orientation still remains unlabelled, Bernstein was said to have initiated contact through a dating app.

Alarming Updates?

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During their time together, Bernstein continued to update friends about the situation. Throughout the night of their meeting, Bernstein expressed surprise in messages to his friends about how the events were unfolding.

What Was Left Behind

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Police reports note that Berstein had left the house in casual wear. He also had left behind several personal items, implying that he planned to only be gone for a short period of time.

The Meetup

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Their last known time as a pair was when they met at around 11pm on January 2nd, 2018. Bernstein had messaged one of his friends, implying that Woodward was actively pursuing interest and that the situation may escalate romantically.

Missed Appointment

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Concerns were raised when Berstein failed to attend a dentist appointment the following day. This aroused suspicion as he was known for his punctuality. It wasn’t until the week after that his body was found.

Soaked With Rage

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Woodward has pleaded not guilty for his upcoming court date. It is unclear how the trial will turn out, however Woodward’s disruptive behavior may not bode well for him. Back in February during jury selection, he threw water at the judge.  

The post California Neo-Nazi on Trial Facing Hate Crime Charges and Murder of Gay Classmate first appeared on Pulse of Pride.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Gorodenkoff.

For transparency, this content was partly developed with AI assistance and carefully curated by an experienced editor to be informative and ensure accuracy.

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