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Samuel Woodward, 21, who has been charged with stabbing gay Jewish teen Blaze Bernstein roughly 20 times in Orange County, Calif., wrote to himself about harassing gay men on Grindr by sending them photos of gay murder victims.
The information was revealed during a preliminary hearing Tuesday to determine if there is enough evidence to bring Woodward to trial for Bernstein's murder, with a hate-crime enhancement that could bring him a longer sentence. Orange County Superior Court Judge Karen L. Robinson ruled that there is, and she ordered Woodward to return to court September 17, the Southern California News Group reports.
In an email he sent to himself, titled "Sam's Diary of Hate," the accused detailed his acts targeting primarily gay men, Orange County Sheriff's Department investigator Craig Goldsmith told the court Tuesday. The content is part of a larger set of homophobic and anti-Semitic materials found on Woodward's phone, reports the Associated Press.
Woodward, who was a high school classmate of Bernstein's, had extensive content related to the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen on his cell phone; his screen saver was the group's insignia.
The phone also had statements from Woodward that he enjoyed posing a "bi curious" to trick men into communicating with him, writing, "That's what they deserve." He wrote that he had sent pictures of the corpses of gay men to his Grindr contacts, which made one man threaten to call the FBI.
"They think they are going to get hate crimed," Woodward wrote, the investigator told the court.
Bernstein, who was a student at the University of Pennsylvania, was invited during winter vacation last January to meet with Woodward for what the victim expected was a hookup. Woodward has said that Bernstein kissed him, and he pushed Bernstein back, but he has pleaded not guilty to his murder. Bernstein was found buried in a shallow grave in Borrego Park, near his home in Lake Forest, Calif.
Woodward's defense lawyer, Edward Munoz, told the court that Woodward was a socially inept, autistic, and sexually questioning young man, and that the hate-crime enhancement was not warranted because his "Diary of Hate" was not made public.
"I think in a hate crime instance you have to have an outward manifestation of your loathing to the world," he said, according to AP.
During the hearing, forensic scientist Corrie Maggay testified that bloodstains found on a knife blade found in Woodward's bedroom and on the visor of his car closely match Bernstein's genetic material. The chance of the blood belonging to anyone other than the victim is one in a trillion, she said.
If convicted of murder and hate-crime charges, Woodward faces up to life in prison with no parole.
"Our son was a beautiful gentle soul who we loved more than anything. We were proud of everything he did and who he was. He had nothing to hide. We are in solidarity with our son and the LGBTQ community," Bernstein's parents wrote in an email to the Los Angeles Times, "If it is determined that this was a hate crime, we will cry not only for our son, but for LGBTQ people everywhere that live in fear."