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Alleged Neo-Nazi Accused Of Killing Gay College Student Pleads Not Guilty To Hate Crime

Samuel Woodward allegedly stabbed former high school classmate Blaze Bernstein to death while the latter was home from college in January. 

By Jill Sederstrom

A California man and alleged member of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division pleaded not guilty Friday to committing a hate crime in the death of a gay, Jewish college student.

Samuel Woodward, 21, has been accused of stabbing 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, a gay University of Pennsylvania student, to death while Bernstein was home on winter break in January. The two had once attended high school together and authorities have said that Woodward picked Bernstein up at his home the last night he was seen alive, according to the Associated Press.

According to police, Bernstein was stabbed nearly 20 times in the neck and face before his body was buried in a shallow grave in a park in Lake Forest, California.

Prosecutors have alleged that Woodward killed Bernstein because he was gay and in August added a hate crime enhancement to the murder charge he's facing, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Woodward was initially being held in jail on $5 million bail; however, on Friday Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Menninger decided to hold him in jail without bail while awaiting trial.

“I do believe it would be a danger to others in the community, based on preliminary hearing transcripts," she said in court, according to the Times.

Prosecutors have said previously that Woodward was linked to the crime through DNA evidence and have submitted a knife and bloody sleeping bag as evidence in the case. They also contend that Woodward had anti-gay and anti-Semitic propaganda as a member of Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group in the United States.

Defense attorney Robert Kohler had argued that the bail amount should be lowered to $1 million and said his client posed no threat the community.

In past interviews, defense attorney Edward Munoz has argued that Woodward suffered from a mental disorder and was "very confused" about his own sexuality, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Woodward's next scheduled court appearance is Jan. 25. If he's found guilty of first-degree murder with the hate crime enhancement, he could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

[Photo: Getty Images]

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