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Samuel Woodward facing hate crime charges for murder of Blaze Bernstein

Samuel Woodward is getting an enhanced charge of hate crime in connection to the murder of Blaze Bernstein.
Photo credit:
California Police

Back in January of this year, University of Pennsylvania pre-med student Blaze Bernstein (pictured left), 19, was found dead in a shallow grave at Borrego Park, CA., police are now saying that it was a hate crime. 

The main suspect, Samuel Woodward, 21, was arrested a few days later after social media records showed that he allegedly met with Bernstein during his winter break and afterward texted people that Bernstein had "hit on him" and "he made me promise not to tell anyone … but I have texted every one, uh oh." 

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas says that new evidence on Woodward's digital devices have led him to believe that hate was behind Bernstein's death and has added hate crime to the murder charges although he won't divulge exactly what was found. 

He urges anyone who may have information that ties Woodward to any extreme anti-gay organization to contact law enforcement, "There could be other charges filed as evidence develops," he said.

"There's a lot there that just spews hatred towards a lot of different groups of people, basically every protected group," added Rackauckas. "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."

Woodward has pleaded not guilty to the murder and his bail is currently set at $5 million. 

If convicted of a hate crime Woodward could face life without parole, the state does not yet sentence death to crimes involving the victim's sexual orientation. His preliminary hearing will be held on August 22.