SANTA ANA, Calif. - The Orange County district attorney announced a murder charge Wednesday against the former classmate suspected of killing 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, whose body was found in a shallow grave in Borrego Park a week after he was reported missing by his parents.
DNA evidence found at the crime scene and in the suspect’s parked vehicle led police to arrest Samuel Lincoln Woodward on suspicion of murder on Jan. 12 in connection with Bernstein’s death, KTLA reported.
The murder charge, as well as a sentencing enhancement for person use of a knife, against Woodward was announced by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas during a news conference in Santa Ana.
Bernstein, a pre-med student at the University of Pennsylvania, was visiting his parents in Lake Forest for winter break when he left home Jan. 2 and went to Borrego Park with Woodward, who had previously attended the Orange County High School of the Arts in Santa Ana with Bernstein.
Woodward later told investigators Bernstein went into the park and did not return. Bernstein was reported missing by his parents the next day.
Bernstein’s body was found Jan 10 in a shallow grave after investigators said the recent rains had exposed part of his body, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department announced.
Bernstein’s father responded Tuesday to recent reports of details involving their son’s death.
“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,“ Gideon Bernstein wrote on the “Help Us Remember Blaze Bernstein” Facebook page.
On Monday, the Orange County Register reported Blaze Bernstein had been stabbed more than 20 times, according to an affidavit. The report also revealed that Woodward told investigators that Blaze Bernstein had kissed him on the lips, prompting Woodward to push him away.
The investigators noted that Woodward had clenched his jaw and fists while recounting the story.
Gideon Bernstein also wrote about a possible motive in the killing, which authorities have not officially determined.
“There is still much discovery to be done and 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,” the post read.
The family stated it is time to set aside “fear, ignorance and judgement,” and to “Be good. Do good and honor Blaze’s memory.”