A former high school classmate of the University of Pennsylvania student found stabbed and buried in a Southern California park has been charged with his murder, according to a criminal complaint.
Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20, was charged on Wednesday with murdering 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein with a knife while Bernstein was visiting his parents in Orange County on winter break.
Orange County prosecutors also filed a sentencing enhancement for use of a knife, which would allow them to seek more jail time for Woodward if he is convicted.
Prosecutors also revealed that Woodward returned to the scene of the crime while under police surveillance.
Authorities have said Bernstein went to Borrego Ranch Park with Woodward on January 2. His body was found in a shallow grave at the park a week later.
Woodward was arrested and told investigators he became angry after Bernstein kissed him the night they went to the park.
Bernstein’s parents say the killing may have been a hate crime against their gay son.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckus told reporters on Wednesday that investigators are looking for evidence that would support making the legal case a hate crime.
Asked specifically about hate crime evidence, Rackauckus said, ‘We’re looking for that evidence and if and when we find it we will amend the charges and file that.’
Rackauckus says both young men had attended the Orange County School of the Arts.
The district attorney says Woodward communicated with Bernstein by Snapchat on January 2 and then picked him up at his parents’ house.
Bernstein was visiting his family in Foothill Ranch during winter break from the Ivy League school when Woodward picked him up and drove with him to several places before winding up at Borrego Park in Lake Forest, police say.
Bernstein’s body was found in brush at the park on January 9 after recent rains partially exposed it.
Investigators say the college sophomore was stabbed more than 20 times.
Authorities say Woodward told them he had left Bernstein at the park alive, claiming he left the park to go see his girlfriend, the San Jose Mercury News reported.