Convicted Orange County Man’s Shocking Confession: I Killed Him Because He Was Gay

Santa Ana, California – A man in Orange County was found guilty of first-degree murder on Wednesday in the fatal stabbing of his gay former high school classmate in 2018. The jury also determined that Samuel Woodward committed a hate crime when he killed 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, who was found with multiple stab wounds to his face and neck in a shallow grave at Borrego Park in Lake Forest.

The courtroom erupted with cheers when the hate crime conviction was announced, prompting the judge to call for silence before the jury’s full verdict was read. After the proceedings, Blaze Bernstein’s mother, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, expressed relief that justice was served and shared that their family felt a sense of closure knowing that the perpetrator would no longer pose a threat to others.

Despite the outcome of the trial, Samuel Woodward showed no visible reaction to the jury’s decision as he sat quietly in the courtroom. The guilty verdict was delivered after a day of deliberations, during which the prosecution argued that Woodward, who had affiliations with an anti-gay and anti-Semitic group, deliberately targeted gay men online before abruptly ending communication.

The charges against Woodward included sentencing enhancements for committing a hate crime and using a deadly weapon during the murder. He now faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison without parole once his sentencing takes place, though the date for this has not yet been set. During the trial, the prosecution asserted that Woodward’s actions were fueled by hate towards Bernstein’s sexual orientation.

In contrast, Woodward’s defense attorney maintained that his client did not harbor hatred towards Bernstein and did not intend to kill him when they met up. Instead, they argued that Woodward struggled with his own sexuality and acted out of momentary rage. Additionally, the defense highlighted Woodward’s undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder as a factor that made him susceptible to recruitment by extremist groups seeking validation and acceptance.

Throughout the trial, witnesses including relatives, friends, and law enforcement officials took the stand to testify. Woodward’s own testimony progressed slowly, with frequent pauses as he responded to his attorney’s inquiries about the events leading up to Bernstein’s death. The case has drawn attention to the complex dynamics of hate crimes and the impact of extremist ideologies on individuals like Woodward.