January 16, 2018

Report: Penn student stabbed 'at least 20 times' in possible rage killing

Search warrant affidavit reveals possible sexual conflict

Investigations Homicide
01072018_Blaze_Bernstein_OCSD Source/Ocean County Sheriff's Department

Blaze Bernstein is seen in a photo released by the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

As an investigation into the death of Blaze Bernstein continues, a new report suggests the 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania student was stabbed "at least 20 times" in what might have a been an attack motivated by rage and sexual tension.

Authorities last week arrested 20-year-old Samuel Woodward, who attended high school with Bernstein in Orange County, California. Bernstein, home for winter break, disappeared late at night on Jan. 2 and was found a week later in a shallow grave along the perimeter of Borrego Park in Lake Forest, near where his parents live.

A 16-page search warrant affidavit obtained by the Orange County Register revealed multiple details that led authorities to identify Woodward as their primary suspect in Bernstein's death, including nervous behavior during a police interview and DNA evidence found on a sleeping bag in Woodward's car.

A new report from the Orange County Register says Bernstein's body was found with multiple stab wounds, leading investigators to tie together evidence of a possible sexual encounter that turned violent between the two men.

NoneSource/Ocean County Sheriff's Department

Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20, is charged in the murder of University of Pennsylvania student Blaze Bernstein in California.

On the night of Bernstein's disappearance, Woodward allegedly told police that he had met with his high school classmate in the parking lot of a Hobby Lobby. From there, Woodward claimed Bernstein went into the woods of Borrego Park alone. After waiting an hour for him to return, Woodward said he left the parking lot to meet up with a girlfriend whose last name and address he could not remember, according to the affidavit.

Sheriff's investigators were originally led to Woodward through Bernstein's social media accounts. The affidavit states that in June, Bernstein told two female friends Woodward was about to "hit on me," but he had to promise not to tell anyone.

"But I have texted everyone, uh oh," Bernstein reported wrote.

Woodward told investigators Bernstein had kissed him on the lips the night he disappeared and that Woodward had pushed him away. Police noted that Woodward "clenched his jaw and fists" as he recounted the story, adding that "he wanted Blaze to get off of him."

Woodward reportedly was known for holding conservative beliefs during his high school years. A review of his social media accounts suggested Woodward had a troubling pattern of statements and violent tendencies. In his interview with police, he claimed he had scratches on his hands and dirt under his fingernails because he was part of a "fight club."

Bernstein, a psychology major on the pre-med track at Penn, was remembered by family and friends during a service on Monday.

"We won’t succumb to hate, bitterness, or disillusionment; we will use wisely the time we have left together," Bernstein's family wrote on a website created in his memory. "When we stop crying we will start doing positive things to affect change."