The opening statements in the trial of the man accused of murdering a young gay Jewish student, Blaze Bernstein, in an Orange County park are scheduled for delivery in a California courtroom on Tuesday. Prosecutors are seeking a hate crime enhancement to the murder charge. Samuel Woodward, now 26, a reported member of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, is accused of stabbing Bernstein to death and burying his body in a park early in January 2018. Bernstein, a 19-year-old student at UPenn, was home on holiday visiting family in Lake Forest when he was killed. His body was found the following week on January 9 buried in a shallow grave in Borrego Park in the Foothill Ranch neighborhood. An autopsy revealed he had been stabbed about 20 times. Woodward became an immediate suspect in the case. The two young men had communicated on the night of Bernstein’s disappearance, and investigators questioned Woodward after encountering him days later in Borrego Park. At the time, Woodward admitted he had been with Bernstein on the evening he went missing, saying he became angry and the pair split up after Bernstein tried to kiss him. At the time, police noted Woodward had dirt under his fingernails and scratches on his arms. They later reportedly found in his possession a knife and sleeping bag stained with Bernstein’s blood. (…) Woodward identified as a member of the neo-Nazi online group Atomwaffen Division as early as 2016, according to Pro Publica. He reportedly traveled to Texas to attend a three-day training program in hand-to-hand combat, firearms, outdoor survival tactics, and more. His social media was reportedly littered with anti-LGBTQ+, racist, and anti-Semitic posts. One of the group’s founding members was charged with murdering his two roommates and group members in 2018. A dispute allegedly broke out between the three men after the reported killer, 18-year-old Devon Arthurs, converted to Islam. Bernstein and Woodward allegedly communicated online prior to meeting in person on January 2. Despite his extremist views, rumors had swirled at OCSA about Woodward’s sexual identity, with many suspecting he was gay and in the closet. Bernstein found his profile on a dating app, “superliked” Woodward’s photo, and the pair soon started chatting.

via advocate: Accused neo-Nazi’s trial begins in connection to killing of gay Jewish college student Blaze Bernstein