A 20-year-old man is charged with murder after allegedly stabbing his former high school classmate over 20 times.
Earlier this month, Blaze Bernstein (above, left) had been visiting his parents while on winter break from the University of Pennsylvania. His parents reported him missing on January 3 and, a week later, his body was found in a shallow grave in a park.
On Friday, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department arrested Samuel Woodward (above, insert), Blaze’s high school friend, on suspicion of homicide. According to The O.C. Register, Blaze’s Snapchat account led investigators to Woodward.
Officials have not found a weapon and are still trying to determine a motive in the case, however, Woodward confessed to investigators that he grew angry when Blaze tried to kiss him the night he disappeared.
The two had reportedly communicated on Snapchat before Woodward picked up Blaze at his parents house at about 11 p.m. on January 2. They drove to the parking lot of a Hobby Lobby in Lake Forest.
Woodward told investigators that Blaze then kissed him on the lips, and that he pushed the Ivy League student away. Per the affidavit, Woodward allegedly “clenched his jaw and fists” while telling officials that “he wanted to tell Blaze to get off of him.”
Texts from Blaze suggest that the student had been planning on sexually pursuing Woodward. Back in June, Blaze allegedly texted two female friends claiming Woodward was about to “hit on me” and “he made me promise not to tell anyone… but I have texted every one, uh oh.”
When speaking with investigators, Woodward reportedly had scratches and dirt on his hands. The suspect claimed he got scratched up from falling in a mud puddle as part of a “fight club.”
DNA evidence found inside Woodward’s vehicle and at the crime scene connects him to the murder. He reportedly returned to the crime scene and cleaned his vehicle while under surveillance, which authorities are taking as an attempt to destroy evidence.
Woodward is being held without bail and has not yet entered a plea. He’ll be in front of a judge next month for his formal arraignment. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told CBS News that investigators are “looking for evidence” to consider the attack a hate crime.
Based on the reports, it sounds like some repressed emotions might have been at play here; and as we know from the Pulse nightclub shooting, self-directed homophobia can be the deadliest kind.
Our hearts go out to Blaze’s grieving loved ones.