A neo-Nazi hate group obsessed with Charles Manson is now linked with at least five murders, despite having only 80 members.
Late last week, nonprofit news organization ProPublica published a report about Samuel Woodward (pictured), who has been charged with the homicide of college student Blaze Bernstein. The outlet details Woodward’s connections to the extremist group Atomwaffen Division. The Southern Poverty Law Center listed the group as an active hate crime group and the Anti-Defamation League has defined them as "a loose group of neo-Nazis" that targets college campuses.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, Atomwaffen Division’s “vile propaganda often promotes violence against minority communities, including LGBT people, Jews, Muslims, and African Americans.”
Woodward’s alleged victim Bernstein was gay and Jewish, leading authorities to believe his murder was a hate crime. He was found in shallow grave in an Orange County, California park earlier this month, after being stabbed more than 20 times. According to the Washington Post, Bernstein and Woodward went to high school together. According to a sealed affidavit obtained by the Orange County Register, Woodward told police that Bernstein tried to kiss him before the murder. It's unclear if he has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said at a press conference, “The question of a hate crime is one question that we have about the possibility of special circumstances, and so we’re looking to see whether or not that might be supported.”
ProPublicia has obtained at least one photograph of Woodward doing the Nazi salute.
Bernstein’s murder is the fifth murder tied to Atomwaffen Division in the last year only, despite the fact that the nationwide group only has about 80 members.
Scott Fricker, 48, and Buckley Kuhn-Fricker, 43, were murdered in Reston, Virginia in December. According to The Washington Post, they asked their teenage daughter to break up with her boyfriend after they discovered he held Nazi beliefs. Her boyfriend, 17, then killed them before attempting to kill himself, according to police.
Last May, alleged Atomwaffen member 18-year-old Devon Arthurs of Tampa, Florida was arrested for murdering his roommates, 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk.
Brandon Russell, a founding member of the group, was sent to jail for five years for having homemade explosives, which he pleaded guilty to.
“Atomwaffen members have a macabre fascination with serial killer Charles Manson and his vision of a race war between whites and blacks,” the Anti-Defamation League reports. “For this reason, in 2017 . . . Atomwaffen members sought out neo-Nazi Manson devotee and former American Nazi Party member, James Mason, and republished some of his writing, including Siege, a book based on a collection of newsletters Mason wrote in the 1980s.”
[Photo: Orange County Sheriff's Department]