Samuel Woodward, who is accused of killing Blaze Bernstein, will stand trial, OC judge orders

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- A man accused of killing former classmate and University of Pennsylvania student Blaze Bernstein will stand trial, a judge ordered Tuesday.

During a court appearance, the judge said enough evidence warranted a trial for 21-year-old Samuel Woodward, who is accused of killing 19-year-old Bernstein in early January.

Woodward took notes as he and the court listened to graphic details of Bernstein's death.

Bernstein, who was visiting his parents during winter break, went to the park with Woodward on the night of Jan. 2. A week later, Bernstein's body was found in a shallow grave on the outskirts of Borrego Park.

Woodward was arrested Jan. 12 after DNA evidence linked him to the crime, authorities said.

In August, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas announced a hate-crime allegation would be added against Woodward. Rackauckas said that Bernstein was stabbed and Woodward is suspected of visiting the scene days after.

During Tuesday's hearing, more details emerged that indicated Bernstein was stabbed more than 20 times - in the neck, face and hands.

Authorities said a sleeping bag and a knife containing blood were found at Woodward's home during a search.

Woodward also told detectives Bernstein tried to kiss him, he pushed Bernstein away and then used a gay slur, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Prosecutors brought in an investigator Tuesday to testify that Woodward killed Bernstein because he was gay. Investigators said there were more than 100 instances of neo-Nazi group materials that turned up on Woodward's phone. In one email, Woodward talked about joining Grindr, a dating application for the LGBTQ community.

The investigator read the email to the court, which was laced with derogatory comments, including threatening people on the app.

Woodward and Bernstein were classmates at the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana and reconnected through social media. Authorities said they had made plans through Snapchat to hangout the night Bernstein was killed.

The exact time and place of Bernstein's killing remains unclear.

Woodward pleaded not guilty in the murder in earlier this year. His next court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 17.
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