Why Penn State Student Blaze Bernstein's Murderer Sam Woodward Could Be Charged With A Hate Crime

Photo: Los Angeles Times
Sam Woodward

Bernstein was openly gay.

Sam Woodward, a high school friend of Blaze Bernstein was officially charged with his murder Wednesday and police have not ruled out the possibility that this was a hate crime. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, 20-year-old Woodward met up with 19-year-old Bernstein at the parking lot of a Hobby Lobby in California. Based on Snapchat conversations uncovered by police, Woodward picked up Bernstein from his parents' home where he was staying on winter break. 

Later that night, Woodward stabbed Bernstein 20 times and buried his body in a shallow grave near Borrego Park. He originally told police that he dropped Bernstein off at the park to meet someone else, and when Bernstein didn't come back or answer his texts, he left. 

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Woodward also indicated that the two met up int he parking lot earlier that day, but police have yet to confirm that. 

“This is a senseless murder of a young man who possessed a combination of a high-caliber mind and the heart of a poet,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said.

Woodward reportedly used a knife to commit the murder, and at the press conference on Wednesday, police said they hadn't ruled out the murder as a hate crime.

According to ABC News, Bernstein was openly gay. His parents said they were aware of his sexuality and fully supported him. Previous social media posts revealed that his murderer held conservative views. 

Authorities said that Bernstein may have been trying to sexually pursue Woodward while he was home on break. He attended the University of Pennsylvania. 

Police found social media messages that Bernstein sent to two of his female friends in June that said Woodward had "hit on him," and made him promise to keep it a secret. 

RELATED: Missing Teen Blaze Bernstein Found Dead — And The Search Warrant Details What They Found On The Friend Who Dropped Him Off

”He made me promise not to tell anyone," Bernstein wrote in one of the messages, "but I have texted every one, uh oh.”

On the day that Woodward and Bernstein met up in the Hobby Lobby parking lot, Bernstein allegedly kissed him while they were in Woodward's car. Woodward told police he pushed him away and "clenched up" his fists and jaws and said he "wanted to tell Blaze to get off of him."

Bernstein's body was found five days after he was reported missing on Jan. 2. 

Court documents reveal that Woodward was known in high school to have conservative views. He often posted on social media about his love for the Bible and guns. He also defended the Confederate Flag. 

“We would need evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Sam Woodward did the killing because of a group that the victim might have belonged to," Rackauckas said. "We’d have to show that the reason for the murder was substantially for the reason that he was gay.

“We are continuing to investigate, looking through all matters of the communication. We have an obligation to file charges only if there’s sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. A hate crime of special circumstance allegation requires that level of proof … if and when we find it, we will amend the charges.”

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Emily Blackwood is an editor at YourTango who covers pop culture, true crime, dating, relationships and everything in between. Every Wednesday at 10:20 p.m. you can ask her any and all questions about self-love, dating, and relationships LIVE on YourTango’s Facebook page. You can follow her on Instagram (@blackw00d) and Twitter (@emztweetz).