US/World News

Blaze Bernstein’s alleged murderer pleads not guilty

(JTA) – A former high school classmate of Blaze Bernstein, 19, the Jewish college student found dead in a park near his parents’ Southern California home, pleaded not guilty to murder charges. Samuel Woodward, 20, of Newport Beach, California, was ordered held on $5 million bail, after he issued his plea on Friday in Orange County Superior Court. It was raised from $2 million after the judge determined that the teen was a flight risk. If he makes bail he will be under several restrictions, including GPS monitoring, a curfew and a protective order for the Bernstein family. He will return to court on March 2, according to reports. Woodward was charged last month with murder. The felony murder charge included a sentence enhancement for using a knife. Woodward is an “avowed Nazi” and a member of Atomwaffen Division, an extremist neo-Nazi group, the ProPublica news website reported. There was no evidence that the two were friends at the Orange County School of the Arts, where they attended high school.

The family said it will hold on Feb. 25 “#BlazeItForward: A Tribute to Blaze Bernstein and a Communal Call for Kindness.” Blaze’s mother Jeanne Pepper wrote in a first-person article last week that in the face of Blaze’s murder, she and her husband “realized that we had an opportunity to set an example for people everywhere. To show them how even in the face of tragedy and loss, there is something better to concentrate on rather than bitterness, revenge, self-pity, and regret. We wanted people to embrace love, tolerance, and kindness; to do good. Our goal was to repair our broken world one child at time, one kind act at a time, one day at a time.”

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