The peculiar case of Blaze Bernstein’s death began about 2 weeks ago, soon after we rang in 2018.
The University of Pennsylvania student was visiting home (Orange County, California) during the holiday break when he went out with some friends on the night of January 2. The details are sketchy, even a little jittery, but apparently he was dropped off at Borrego Park in Orange County where he was supposed to meet another friend.
He never returned. A short investigation for the missing student ensued, but it wasn’t long before his body was found in a shallow grave in Foothill Ranch Park, close to Borrego Park. Police quickly concluded that he had been murdered, and former high school classmate, Samuel Lincoln Woodward, who had been on the radar from the moment Bernstein went missing, was arrested on suspicion of the murder of the Ivy Leaguer on Friday afternoon.
Bernstein was Jewish, and as revelations of Woodward’s past unfold, the story becomes murky and tinged with dark undertones.
What was Woodward’s motive?
He left an abundant digital trail, to be sure.
The California man accused of killing his 19-year-old Ivy league friend, defended the Confederate flag and expressed violent thoughts on social media, according to a new report.
Samuel Lincoln Woodward – who was taken into custody Friday for the slaying of University of Pennsylvania pre-med student Blaze Bernstein – posted to an undisclosed site that he believes the flag is a symbol of Southern pride, and not hate, KCAL9 reported.
On another website, Woodward, 20, replied he would pick “The Bible and a Colt .45” if he could have two items to be stranded with on a deserted island.
The Newport Beach man also picked “Waterboarding” as his top new skill to learn.
While discussing human cloning, Woodward wrote, “Just one of me in the world is already bad enough,” the outlet reported.
Another user replied, “You are violence. It scares me” to which Woodward admitted “I wouldn’t fight anybody unless they attacked me.”
During Woodward’s arrest, he wore a “Keep the Peace” sweatshirt which according to the non-profit’s website, “focuses on providing financial aid and/or equipment to violent and under served families.”
He also liked the metal band “Dope” as well as the violent video game “Call of Duty” on a Facebook account that appears to be his.
Woodward, who drove Bernstein around the night he went missing, was the last person to be seen with Bernstein.
Perhaps anticipating a tense escalation in this case’s mysterious circumstances, the Bernstein family is asking for peace, albeit indirectly. Woodward’s possible motivations are the elephant in the room, so most people are skirting the issue, including Berstein’s family.
A makeshift memorial to Blaze Bernstein created out of rocks and pebbles has continued to grow as the family of the slain college student called on people to make something positive out of his murder.
Collections of small rocks bearing Bernstein’s name and likeness sit alongside candles in Borrega Park near the spot where the University of Pennsylvania sophomore was killed and left in a shallow grave.
“Let’s be optimistic in a pessimistic world and not wallow in sorrow,” Richard Bernstein, the slain student’s grandfather, wrote in a Facebook post. “There are so many stories to tell of heroism, despair, sorrow and ecstacy … We will reach out to the heavens where Blaze is baking bread with the lord.”
Recalling Blaze Bernstein’s skill in technology even as a young child, Richard Bernstein thanked Facebook for creating a global platform to mourn him.
“We thank your community and worldwide communities for this solace to move from hope, to grief to realization that this ongoing story will continue to spur people and communities to ponder the important things in our brief time on this gorgeous planet,” he wrote.
Only time will tell just how wickedly this narrative will spin out of control, if at all.
High profile criminal trials, and the attendant circuses, tend to become feats of frenzied drama and showcase here in SoCal. Let’s see where this one takes us. It could very well materialize as the trial of our “times.”