SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 21-year-old Newport Beach man charged with killing his former high school classmate in what prosecutors say was a hate crime because the victim was gay pleaded not guilty today.
Samuel Lincoln Woodward had remained in custody since his arrest on $5 million bail. At his second arraignment following his preliminary hearing in September he again pleaded not guilty to murder and denied sentencing enhancement allegations for a hate crime and the personal use of a deadly weapon.
Woodward is accused of fatally stabbing 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, a University of Pennsylvania pre-med student whose body was found in a shallow grave in Borrego Park in Lake Forest in January.
Prosecutors have alleged evidence in Woodward's emails show gay bashing and ties to white supremacists. Woodard's prior attorney, Ed Munoz, said his client was afflicted with Asperger's Syndrome and has spent years conflicted about his sexual orientation.
The two were classmates at the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana and reconnected through the Snapchat social media platform while Bernstein was home on winter break.