The killing of Blaze Bernstein is featured in the latest episode of 48 Hours on ID — as his high school classmate Samuel Woodward faces murder charges over his death.
Bernstein was a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania when he returned to his home in Lake Forest, California, to visit his family for winter break.
It was during that time that he ran into his former classmate Woodward, and began talking to him via Snapchat. Bernstein sent his friend a text with a photo of Woodward, saying that if he had sexual intercourse with the then-20-year-old, it would be legendary.
On January 2, 2018, after Bernstein made a turkey dinner for his family, a friend picked him up and dropped him off at Borrego Park in Foothill Ranch to meet up with Woodward. His friend waited in the car. When Bernstein didn’t return, his friend started sending him text messages, but there was no response.
His friend eventually left and later returned to the park to find Bernstein, but to no avail. At around 11pm, his phone stopped functioning and it was turned off. That’s when relatives reported Bernstein missing.
A week later, his body was found buried in a shallow grave near Borrego Park. He had been stabbed to death — nearly 20 times in the neck and face.
Investigators believed that Bernstein was killed in an act of rage.
On January 12, 2018, Woodward was arrested after DNA evidence collected from the crime scene was found to allegedly match his DNA. Prior to that, Woodward was questioned by police, who said there were inconsistencies in his story. He allegedly also had scratches on his hand with dirt under his fingernails.
Woodward was booked into the Orange County Jail on murder charges.
In August 2018, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas stated prosecutors were planning to seek a hate-crime sentencing enhancement against Woodward as they believed he killed his classmate because he was gay and Jewish.
It came after investigators searched his cellphone, laptop, and social media, with Rackauckas claiming they uncovered evidence that led them to believe he had hatred toward different groups of people.
Woodward pled not guilty to first-degree murder. He admitted to meeting up with Bernstein at the park, but he said he wasn’t violent toward him.
He is said to have told investigators that while they were sitting in his SUV, he became so disgusted after Bernstein kissed him on his lips that he pushed him away. That’s when he said Bernstein exited the vehicle and began walking into the woods alone.
On January 25, 2019, Woodward appeared in Orange County Superior Court for his pretrial hearing. He was facing another pretrial hearing on August 2, 2019.
Woodward remains in county jail without a bond while awaiting trial. If he is found guilty of killing Bernstein, he could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
48 Hours On ID — In The Name Of Hate, airs tonight at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.