Hate crime charge added in Blaze Bernstein murder investigation

An additional charge of hate crime has been added to murder by Californian authorities investigating the death of a gay teenager in Orange County.

Nineteen-year-old Blaze Bernstein had been missing for five days before his body was found in a shallow grave at a park not far from his family home in January.

He had just returned from the University of Pennsylvania to spend the winter break with his family.

According to documents filed by prosecutors, Bernstein was picked up by Samuel Woodward from his family home after a conversation on Snapchat.

Woodward said he wanted to "hang out" and "catch up".

He drove Bernstein to nearby Borrego Park. It is here that authorities allege that the victim was stabbed more than 20 times.

Investigators announced at a press conference today they will prove 21-year-old Samuel Woodward killed Bernstein because he was gay.

Woodward told detectives Bernstein tried to kiss him, and used a derogatory term for gay men when he described his reaction.

Samuel Woodward has been charged with Bernstein's murder.
Samuel Woodward has been charged with Bernstein's murder. Photo credit: Orange County Police

The defendant initially told police he had dropped Bernstein off at the park and then headed to his girlfriend's house, but inconsistencies in his story and the discovery of dirt and blood under his fingernails led police to make an arrest. 

During one police interview Woodward couldn't remember his girlfriend's last name and didn't know where she lived.

Text messages from Bernstein to his friends claim he had previously hooked up with Woodward who he described as "in the closet".

Woodward has pleaded not guilty in the killing.