ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY NEWS RELEASE
Case # 18HF0073
Date: January 17, 2018
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A former classmate of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein was charged today with murdering the victim and burying his body in a shallow grave in Borrego Park in Lake Forest.
Defendant: Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20, Newport Beach
Charged today with:
- One felony count of murder
- Sentencing Enhancement: Personal use of a knife
Maximum Sentence: 26 years to life in state prison
Arraignment: Jan. 17, 2018, 1:30 p.m. at Department C-5, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana
Circumstances of the Case
- At approximately 11:00 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2018, Woodward is accused of picking up the victim, 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania student Blaze Bernstein, from his residence in Lake Forest. The victim and the defendant knew each other from attending Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana.
- Woodward is accused of driving with the victim to the parking lot of a shopping center on Portola Parkway in Foothill Ranch.
- Later that evening, Woodward is accused of driving the victim to Borrego Park in Lake Forest.
- The defendant, who is 185 pounds, is accused of murdering Bernstein, who was 135 pounds, by stabbing the victim multiple times. Woodward is accused of burying the victim’s body in the dirt perimeter of Borrego Park.
- On Jan. 3, 2018, Bernstein’s parents contacted the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) to report the victim as a missing person.
- After an eight-day investigation which included a team of 25 search and rescue deputies, police K-9 dogs, multiple helicopter searches, and drones, OCSD investigators discovered the victim’s body on Jan. 9, 2018, in a shallow grave in Borrego Park.
- The defendant is accused of having abrasions on his arms and dirt on his hands. Woodward is accused of providing a false explanation about the injuries on his hands. He is further accused of cleaning up his car and acting in a manner which would avoid leaving his DNA to law enforcement.
- OCSD arrested the defendant on Jan. 12, 2018, at his home in Newport Beach.
The investigation in this case is ongoing. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact OCDA Homicide Unit Supervising Investigator Kory Degraffenreid at (714) 347-8492.
Prosecutor: Senior Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy, Homicide Unit
TONY RACKAUCKAS, District Attorney
Susan Kang Schroeder, Chief of Staff
Michelle Van Der Linden,Spokesperson