Samuel Woodward pleads not guilty to Blaze Bernstein murder
Samuel Woodward, the man who is accused of murdering gay Jewish student Blaze Bernstein last January, has pleaded not guilty to the suspected hate crime in California.
Woodward entered his not guilty plea yesterday during a hearing at the Orange County Superior Court, according to NBC News.
While bail had previously been set at $5 million, Judge Kimberly Menninger said he will now be held without bail, noting that he could be a danger to the general public if he was released.
Woodward has been charged with the first-degree murder with hate crime enhancement of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein.
When he was arrested for the crime, he allegedly had dirt under his fingernails as well as cuts and bruises. He told investigators that Bernstein had tried to kiss him.
Evidence collected from Woodward’s computer and social media profiles suggest that he is a neo-Nazi and that he holds discriminatory views against Jews, women and people of different ethnicities.
He had also posted racist and violent content about white nationalism on a meme website called iFunny.
Woodward and Bernstein had known each other from their time as classmates at Orange County School of the Arts. Bernstein went on to study at the University of Pennsylvania.
He was visiting home last January when he was murdered.
The pair allegedly reconnected and went to a local park. Bernstein’s body was discovered days later in a shallow grave, and he had been stabbed more than 20 times.
Speaking to Buzzfeed News in August, Woodward’s lawyer, Edward Munoz, said that Woodward has Asperger’s Syndrome and also said that he has issues “around sexual orientaition.”
“There’s going to be some evidence that comes out that shows he’s very confused,” he added.
Speaking about the death of their son, Blaze Bernstein’s parents said he was “a beautiful and gentle soul who we loved more than anything.
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“We were proud of everything he did and who he was. He had nothing to hide. We are in solidarity with our son and the LGBTQ community.”
Orange County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Craig Goldsmith told Orange County Superior Court in September that Woodward’s mobile had a hoard of materials related to Nazi group Atomwaffen.
The group, whose insignia Goldsmith said was featured in Woodward’s phone background, embraces a “Third Reich ideology” towards gay people and other minorities. Many Atomwaffen members celebrated Bernstein’s killing.
One propaganda poster produced by the group encourages LGBT people to take their own lives, saying: “Follow your fellow faggots. 30 percent of suicides are LGBT related.”