The trial of Samuel Lincoln Woodward, accused of stabbing his former high school classmate Blaze Bernstein to death and burying him in a Lake Forest park, can begin in June, attorneys in the case said Friday.
The June 28 trial date was in question because public defender Alison Worthington, one of Woodward’s lawyers, had a potential conflict with another trial. But on Friday, she told the judge she intends to be ready.
“I don’t anticipate that there will be any delay in starting the trial on June 28,” she said.
A nearly week-long search for Bernstein, the discovery of his body followed closely by the arrest of his former Orange County School of the Arts classmate Woodward and the subsequent unveiling of Woodward’s alleged ties to Atomwaffen Division, an armed fascist organization, drew widespread attention to the Jan. 2018 killing.
Woodward is facing a murder charge with enhancements for the use of a deadly weapon and a hate crime enhancement for allegedly killing Bernstein, who was gay. What role, if any, his alleged involvement with Atomwaffen Division played in the suspected slaying of Bernstein, who was Jewish, isn’t clear.
Woodward and Bernstein met up during their respective winter breaks, with Woodward later telling investigators that he drove the two of them to Borrego Park. Woodward told detectives that Bernstein kissed him on the lips, causing him to push Bernstein away and Bernstein to apologize.
Woodward reportedly told the detectives that Bernstein then walked off into the park and never returned. But prosecutors allege that Woodward stabbed Bernstein to death and buried his body in the dirt at the edge of the park.
The next day, Bernstein’s parents reported him missing. Six days later his body was found.
Detectives during earlier court hearings testified to finding a knife with blood matched to Bernstein in a drawer in Woodward’s bedroom, along with blood in Woodward’s vehicle that they matched to both Woodward and Bernstein. A sleeping bag with what appeared to be blood stains was also found outside Woodward’s home, near the window to his room.
Detectives have also described finding images with references to “Nazism” and homophobia on Woodward’s phone.
A previous attorney who represented Woodward during the earlier hearings elicited testimony about Woodward’s apparently conflicted attitude toward homosexuality and his own sexual identity. That attorney didn’t confirm Woodward’s alleged ties to Atomwaffen Division, but did tell reporters that Woodward had Asperger syndrome – a developmental disorder that can result in someone having difficulty with social interactions – and had tried to connect with others in places where most would not venture.
Source: Orange County Register