Neo-Nazi convicted of hate-crime murder of gay classmate he met online for a hookup

Neo-Nazi convicted of hate-crime murder of gay classmate he met online for a hookup

A neo-Nazi has been convicted of murder and hate crime charges for fatally stabbing a gay 19-year-old classmate he met for a hookup.

A California jury gave its verdict against Samuel Woodward on Wednesday after one day of deliberation. Woodward was convicted for the first-degree murder of Blaze Bernstein in 2018. He now faces a sentence of life in prison without parole.

People in the gallery cheered as the verdict was read while Bernstein sat motionless during the reading, his face hidden from cameras by his long hair.

Bernstein, a Jewish teen, was found stabbed 20 times in a California park in 2018. The defense did not contest the killing but said it was not the result of hate.

Woodward – who grew up in a conservative, religious family – had met Bernstein on Tinder and they agreed to meet up.

“At that point, he pretty much said, ‘Don’t worry, I get it, completely understand,’” Woodward previously testified during the trial. He also admitted he made the first move.

Samuel Woodward was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Blaze Bernstein in 2018 after they agreed to meet for a hookup (© 2024, Orange County Register/SCNG)

“I’m pretty sure I said we should hang out at some point … and he said he was actually free (that) night, right now,” the 26-year-old said. “He said something else that was basically an offer to if I wanted to come over. At that point, I said ‘Alright, cool.’”

The two were students at the Orange County School of the Arts. Before that, Bernstein was a briefly a student at the University of Pennsylvania to study pre-med. Woodward had dropped out of college and went to Texas. There, he met with a Neo-Nazi extremist group Atomwaffen Division before moving back to his California parent’s home.

Woodward testified there were moments in his life when he felt he did not have friends, and mostly, the only communication he had with other people was while talking online.

“I had been looking for people for a long time to spend time with or talk to,” Woodward said, according to the Orange County Register.

Screenshots of the online conversations between Woodward and Bernstein were shown during the trial, relaying how the pair had connected over the internet months before Bernstein had died, the outlet reported.

Woodward told the court that he picked up Blaze from home and they went to the park, where the 19-year-old was later found dead.

The defense argued that a long-undiagnosed autism spectrum condition meant Woodward had challenges in relationships with others and was confused by his own sexuality, especially due to growing up in an environment where his father criticized homosexuality openly.

Bernstein was found dead in a California park in 2018. Now, his killer faces a sentence of life in prison without parole (Facebook)

Woodward’s attorney also argued the narrative surrounding his client that has been put forward is flawed.

“There is this narrative that’s been pushed: Nazi kills gay Jew. From the defense perspective, that’s inaccurate,” attorney Ken Morrison told the judge during a hearing leading up to the trial, the Los Angeles Times reported.

It took years for the case to go to trial due to questions surrounding Woodward’s mental state until he was deemed competent to stand trial in late 2022. The trial started in late April and is currently 28 days into the proceedings and three days into Woodward’s testimony.

Authorities connected Woodward to the crime after Bernstein’s family looked over his social media and saw he allegedly had contact with Woodward on social media.

Upon searching Woodward’s family home, the authorities allegedly found a folding knife with a bloodied blade in his room, along with a black Atomwaffen mask that had traces of blood on it.