An alleged neo-Nazi already accused of murdering California teenager Blaze Bernstein is facing an additional hate crime charge for killing Bernstein because he was gay.
Samuel Woodward, who according to a report from ProPublica was a member of neo-Nazi hate group Atomwaffen Division, was charged with first-degree murder over the stabbing death of 19-year-old Bernstein in early January.
The teen had been missing for five days before his body was found in a shallow grave at a park in Orange County, California not far from his family home, CBS News reported.
The two men were former high school classmates and had reconnected over Snapchat.
Police claim Woodward, 21, told the teenager he wanted to “hang out” and “catch up” and he drove Bernstein to the park. Then, police allege, Woodward stabbed the victim more than 20 times.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said prosecutors had added the hate crime enhancement to Woodward’s first-degree murder charge after uncovering a large number of “graphic” and “chilling” texts and images on his mobile phone and social media accounts showing he intended to murder Bernstein and directed hate towards “almost every protected group.”
“This complaint is going to add a hate crime enhancement, accusing Woodward of intentionally committing first-degree murder, due in whole, or in part, to Blaze’s sexual orientation,” he said.
“We will prove that Woodward killed Blaze because Blaze was gay.”
Woodward faces a maximum potential sentence of life without parole with the added hate crime charge. He has pleaded not guilty.
Bernstein’s father said that learning their son was allegedly killed because of his sexuality added to the family’s grief.
“Today we suffer an added layer of pain from learning that he was most likely killed because of who he was as a human being,” his father said.
“Our only objective at this point is to make sure that maximum sentencing is an option to ensure that no one is ever hurt or killed again by hate.”
His mother added, “We are people who are suffering because of hate. We live in a world where hate is real and the people that practice it can be hiding in a child’s bedroom in a computer.”
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