California prosecutors now believe a gay college student was stabbed to death while he was home on winter break this year because of his sexual orientation, PEOPLE confirms.
On Thursday the Orange County district attorney announced that a hate-crime sentencing enhancement had been added to the murder charge against 21-year-old Samuel Woodward, a high school classmate of Blaze Bernstein, 19.
Woodward is accused of fatally stabbing Bernstein more than 20 times in early January. The teen’s body was found in a local park days later, in a shallow grave.
“We will prove that Woodward killed Blaze because Blaze was gay,” Tony Rackauckas, the D.A., said at a news conference on Thursday, according to the Orange County Register.
In a news release obtained by PEOPLE, Rackauckas said the anti-gay allegation was based on Woodward’s digital activities — evidence obtained from his “cell phone, laptop, and social media” — that “revealed the dark side of [his] thoughts and intentions.”
On Thursday Rackauckas described that information as including many “graphic and chilling” text messages and photos that “spew[ed] hate toward almost every protected group,” the Register reports.
“They could be described as racist,