SANTA ANA, California — A former high school classmate of the Jewish University of Pennsylvania student found stabbed and buried in a Southern California park was charged Wednesday with his murder, according to a criminal complaint.
Samuel Woodward, 20, killed 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein with a knife, the complaint said, while Bernstein was visiting his parents on winter vacation. Orange County prosecutors also filed a so-called enhancement which would allow them to seek more jail time for Woodward if he is convicted.
Authorities have said Bernstein went to the park with Woodward on January 2. His body was found in a shallow grave at the park a week later.
Woodward was arrested and told investigators he became angry after Bernstein kissed him the night they went to the park.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckus was scheduled to discuss the case with reporters Wednesday morning.
Earlier Wednesday, Bernstein’s parents said that the killing may have been a hate crime against their gay son.
The family statement came after a search warrant affidavit obtained by a newspaper revealed that Woodward told investigators about the incident in the park.
As he described the kiss, Woodward clenched his jaw and his fists, saying “he wanted to tell Blaze to get off of him,” investigators wrote in the affidavit obtained by the Orange County Register.
“Our son was a beautiful gentle soul who we loved more than anything,” Gideon Bernstein and Jeanne Pepper Bernstein said. “We were proud of everything he did and who he was. He had nothing to hide. We are in solidarity with our son and the LGBTQ community.”
The couple added, “If it is determined that this was a hate crime, we will cry not only for our son, but for LGBTQ people everywhere that live in fear or who have been victims of hate crime.”
Bernstein was stabbed more than 20 times and buried in a shallow grave at the park, the Register and the Los Angeles Times reported.
“We are saddened to hear, on the day we laid our son to rest, that gruesome details of the cause of his death were published,” Bernstein’s parents said in their statement.