News (USA)

Man who stabbed gay student to death says he was worried about being outed to his dad

Samuel Woodward Blaze Bernstein
Samuel Woodward (l) has been arrested on suspicion of homicide in the death of Blaze Bernstein (r). Photo: Orange County Sheriff's Department

The trial of Samuel Woodward, the man who killed 19-year-old gay University of Pennsylvania student Blaze Bernstein, has started, and Woodward testified about his motive last week.

Woodward changed his defense substantially from what he told police six years ago. Currently, Woodward claims that Bernstein had groped him while Woodward was intoxicated on cannabis, taking pictures of his genitals and saying, “I got you,” repeatedly while also using the word “outed,” Mercury News reports.

Originally, Woodward claimed that the two had gone to meet in the park, after which Bernstein walked off to meet someone else, coming back to try and kiss Woodward before he murdered the university student, stabbing him over 20 times.

The prosecuting attorney claims that texts on Woodward’s phone to Bernstein support the original testimony.

Bernstein had flown back from college to Lake Forest, California, for a vacation. There, the two had agreed to meet up and recount old memories from when they were in high school together.

Woodward described feeling “anger like nothing I had ever felt in my whole life,” leading him to “just [keep] driving and driving and driving the knife down.” His defense attorney asked Woodward if he remembered how many times he stabbed Bernstein, to which he responded, “No.”

“What were you thinking?” his lawyer asked. “Do you remember what you were thinking when you were driving the knife down again and again and again?”

“Anger like nothing I had ever felt in my whole life,” he responded.

In his testimony, Woodward failed to mention that he had previously moved to Texas to train with the Neo-Nazi hate group, Atomwaffen Division. This group advocates for a violent, trained militia to violently hurt and kill minorities, including members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Woodward had over 100 pieces of extremist content on his phone at the time of the murder, much of which was related to extremist content. Hateful material was found on his laptop and social media accounts as well, including racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic materials.

In the months before the murder, it was revealed that Woodward went on Grindr to send pictures of gay men being violently and graphically murdered to anyone he interacted with. He bragged about posing as “gay curious” before calling gay men “f*ggots,” and saying that they deserved the treatment.

Two weeks before the murder, he posted a picture of a bloody knife to Snapchat, saying, “Texting is boring, but murder isn’t.”

Additionally, Woodward had allegedly sent nude images of himself to Bernstein. However, in spite of contradictory evidence, he denied doing this. Much of the trial is determined by whether or not he had repressed gay feelings for Bernstein. Prosecutors argue that Woodward targeted Bernstein in an anti-gay hate crime, while the defense claims that Woodward was confused about his own sexuality.

In his testimony, Woodward described a fear of his father finding out, although he didn’t describe what the exact ramifications would be. He testified that Bernstein had unbuckled Woodward’s belt and had his hand down his pants and was tapping on his phone. That’s when he said he started “babbling incoherently” while Bernstein said “I got you, you [expletive] hypocrite” and may have used the word “outed.”

He said he felt “mortal terror” when he saw Bernstein tapping on his phone, thinking that Bernstein was sending a picture of his genitalia to someone else.

“What were you afraid of?” his lawyer asked.

“My father — there is no way people like him, people in our community, people in our neighborhood — just the look on his face if he heard about something like that, if it got out somehow,” he responded. “I couldn’t fathom something like that.”

He said that he started yelling at Bernstein. He said he tried to grab Bernstein’s phone and then grabbed a knife.

“I only remember trying to get the phone and during that time and the ensuing tumble I just remember I felt nothing other than being clawed and bitten,” he said.

“Everything was just one big flood,” he continued. “I just remember losing my mind. I remember not knowing what to do.”

The prosecutor noted that Woodward sent texts to Bernstein’s phone that implied that Bernstein had wandered off, after Woodward had buried his body. She asked if Woodward was “going to continue to cover up the crime?””

“That wasn’t my intention, no,” he responded.

Woodward was acting unusual during his testimony, as he would take over 30 seconds to respond at times and would be asked to move his hair out of his face, which has grown long and unkempt. He had to be prodded to move forward with what happened on the night of the murder.

On another day of testimony, a prosecutor asked if he believed Bernstein deserved to die.

“No,” he responded.

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