The parents of a 19-year-old college student found stabbed at least 20 times and hidden in a shallow grave in Foothills Ranch, California, think that their son was the target of a hate crime for being gay.
ABC News reports that the parents of Blaze Bernstein, Gideon Bernstein and Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, issued a public statement after an affidavit, obtained by the Orange County Register, noted that the suspect, 20-year-old Samuel Woodward, said that Blaze attempted to kiss him on Jan. 2, the night the University of Pennsylvania college student disappeared. Police found Blaze’s lifeless body a week later, buried in a shallow grave near Borrego Park in Foothills Ranch.
According to the affidavit, police said Woodward clenched his hands and jaws and said “he wanted to tell Blaze to get off of him” when detectives questioned him about his friend.
“Our son was a beautiful gentle soul who we loved more than anything,” Blaze’s parents said. “We were proud of everything he did and who he was. He had nothing to hide. We are in solidarity with our son and the LGBTQ community.”
“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,” they added. “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.”
So far, police have not released any information regarding motive for the killing.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Blaze was was home for the holidays in Foothill Ranch, Ca. when he was killed, and he may have been trying to sexually pursue Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20. Woodward, currently behind bars in connection with Blaze’s death, attended high school with the victim.
Authorities said they uncovered social medias messages sent by Blaze in June, to two of his female friends that indicated Woodward “hit on him” and made him promise to keep it a secret.
In one message, Blaze wrote,”he made me promise not to tell anyone … but I have texted every one, uh oh.”
On Jan. 2, Woodward reportedly met Blaze in the parking lot at the Foothills Chase Hobby Lobby, where Blaze allegedly kissed him on the lips as they sat in Woodward’s car. The suspect told police he pushed Blaze away. Woodward also “clenched up” his fists and jaws and said he “he wanted to tell Blaze to get off of him,” according to the affidavit.
During initial questioning, police noticed Woodward had scratches on his hands and dirt under his nails, which he explained away by saying he was in a “fight club.” After questioning, authorities kept Woodward under surveillance for two days while they tested DNA evidence.
Per court documents, Woodward was known in high school to have conservative views. He reportedly posted on social media about his love of the Bible and guns, while defending the Confederate Flag. He’s currently behind bars on suspicion of involvement in Blaze’s death, though no formal charges have been made yet. He’s expected to appear for an arraignment this week.
Blaze’s lifeless body was found on Jan. 9, just outside Borrego park, the last place Woodward claimed he saw him. Authorities reported he was found near shrubbery in a shallow grave.
The story is still developing. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Blaze Bernstein/Facebook]