Blaze Bernstein was killed 6 years ago. His accused killer’s trial has just started.

Samuel Woodward speaks with his attorney during his arraignment on murder charges on Jan. 17, 2018.
Samuel Woodward speaks with his attorney during his arraignment on murder charges in the death of Blaze Bernstein in Santa Ana on Jan. 17, 2018. Opening statements in Woodward’s trial began Tuesday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, April 10. I’m Carol Cormaci, bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter with a look at the latest local news and events.

More than six years ago, the body of a young man named Blaze Bernstein, who had been missing for a week, was found buried under a layer of mud at Borrego Park in Lake Forest on Jan. 10, 2018. He had been stabbed in the neck 19 times before his killer left the scene.

The slaying of the University of Pennyslvania student, who had come home over the December holidays to visit his family in Orange County, drew widespread media attention. Two days after Bernstein’s body was found, Newport Beach resident Samuel Woodward, then 20, was arrested after DNA evidence at the crime scene and inside his car tied him to the slaying, authorities said. Woodward was a former schoolmate of Bernstein’s at the Orange County School of the Arts who admitted having been in the park with him the night he went missing.


The 19-year-old Bernstein was Jewish and gay; prosecutors will try to prove the killing was a hate crime, according to a report published in the Los Angeles Times that was prepared by staff writer Christopher Goffard.

“When investigators managed to hack into Woodward’s iPhone, they unearthed a trove of anti-gay, anti-Jewish material linked to the Atomwaffen Division, a white supremacist hate group,” Goffard reports.

“There is this narrative that’s been pushed: Nazi kills gay Jew. From the defense perspective, that’s inaccurate,” Assistant Public Defender Kenneth Morrison told Judge Kimberly Menninger during one of many hearings leading up to the trial, according to Goffard’s reporting.

On Tuesday, opening statements began in Woodward’s trial, being held in Orange County Superior Court. He is charged with murder, with enhancements for use of a deadly weapon and for a hate crime. If he is found guilty, he could be sentenced to prison for life without parole.

The prosecution finished presenting its statement to jurors Tuesday; by late afternoon it appeared likely to a colleague of mine who was in the courtroom that the defense will likely complete its opening statement today.

It’s expected to be a long trial, lasting into the summer.

Blaze Bernstein posing in 2017 for Penn Appétit’s Whisk cookbook, which was later dedicated to him.
(Courtesy of Jeanne Pepper and Gideon Bernstein)

There had been some expectation the trial would get underway two years ago; in fact, it was coincidentally scheduled to start on what would have been Bernstein’s 24th birthday, April 27, 2022. Around that time, the Daily Pilot/TimesOC received a commentary piece penned by Jamie-Lee Josselyn, who was his college advisor at the Ivy League school. She wanted him to be remembered not for having been a murder victim but for his unique personality and talents.

It is a warm-hearted remembrance of a student who had a variety of interests, including cooking. She outlines just some of his attributes in this passage:

‘It was hard for him to narrow his options because he was genuinely interested in — and good at — so many things: psychology, medicine, chemistry, writing. He worked with younger writers with care. He helped his teachers get the discussion going in class. When there were no seats left at a meeting, he left his own chair and joined his friend on the floor so she wouldn’t sit alone.”

She also paints this poignant picture of him: “On the last night of his life, just after New Year’s, he made a complex Thanksgiving dinner-caliber meal for his family.”

She has much more to say about the young man whose life was lost that January night. Her full commentary piece can be found here.

“In death,” she notes,”we cannot forget life.”


The Hunt Branch Library in Fullerton is reopening to the public on April 13 after being shuttered for 11 years.
(Gabriel San Román)

• More than a decade ago the Hunt Branch Library in Fullerton, built in 1962, was closed and leased for a period to an evangelical church. It later appeared on a list of surplus properties to be sold, spurring into action residents who wanted it saved. Now, following millions of dollars in renovations, the Hunt is poised to welcome the public back on Saturday with a celebration featuring music, live entertainment, vendors and food trucks from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “It’s a lot more than just a library,” Daisy Perez, Fullerton’s deputy city manager, told TimesOC’s Gabriel San Román for his story on the upcoming celebration. “Part of it is a library, part of it is going to function like a community center.”

• Coastal bluffs in Orange County continue their march into the sea. Most recently, three properties in Newport Beach that abut the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve were yellow-tagged after a backyard bluff gave way completely at one home and, to a lesser extent, the same thing happened at its immediately neighboring properties. Just the day before the landslide, the property owners at the most impacted home contacted the city with concerns about the stability of the bluff and stated their intent to submit forms to bolster their property. Hours later, it became clear how dire the situation was. Geological engineers were scheduled to be at the site this week to investigate the situation.

• County Supervisor Andrew Do, now in his final year on the Board of Supervisors, has been besieged the past several months over allegations of improprieties. In an article headlined “Scandal shadows Andrew Do’s final year on the O.C Board of Supervisors,” Goffard, the same Times reporter covering the trial of Samuel Woodward, brings readers up to speed on missteps Do has made that have led to community groups and the Orange County Register calling for his resignation.

• In another piece that puts the spotlight on local politics, The Times’ Benjamin Oreskes talked to Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine who recently lost her bid for Senate. In Oreskes’ story, Porter expresses her optimism on the future of the seat she held in Congress as well as her own career.

An ordinance passed last week by the Huntington Beach City Council seeks to curb revelers who make too much noise and engage the practice of people throwing water balloons at unsuspecting visitors and residents. “I think this will address what seems like a massive call for service for something that seems somewhat trivial but can really ruin somebody’s day,” Councilman Dan Kalmick said. “As one of the officers said, you can throw [water balloons] at people you know, just don’t throw them at people you don’t know.”

• Lauri Peterson of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” announced Saturday on Instagram that her son, Josh Waring, 35, died just days after being released from jail for a parole violation. Police said Waring died in Garden Grove of an apparent drug overdose.


 Anaheim police are investigating the death of a man found early Tuesday along Santa Ana Canyon Road in Anaheim Hills.
Anaheim police are investigating the death of a man found early Tuesday along Santa Ana Canyon Road in Anaheim Hills.
(Los Angeles Times)

• A homicide investigation was underway Tuesday morning in the 8700 block of Santa Ana Canyon Road in Anaheim Hills, City News Service reported. Police and paramedics responding to a 4 a.m. call from a man reporting a small fire found the burned body of a man. Anyone with relevant information for investigators is asked to call police at (714) 321-3669.

• CNS also reported that a 45-year-old man, Angel Lewis Burgos, was charged Friday with sexually assaulting three girls in Laguna Niguel. One of the girls was attacked in November 2014, another in December 2012 and a third in January 2014, according to the criminal complaint. Burgos’ next hearing is scheduled for April 19 in the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach.

• A pedestrian was struck Friday and killed by a Metrolink train in Santa Ana, CNS reported. The incident took place near Fourth Street and Grand Avenue shortly before 4 p.m. Paramedics found the victim dead at the scene, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.


Arte Moreno, owner of the Los Angeles Angels, stands on the field before a baseball game.
Arte Moreno, owner of the Los Angeles Angels, stands on the field before a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Anaheim on May 24, 2023. Moreno was booed by fans last Friday night when his image appeared on a video.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

• Angels owner Arte Moreno was booed by fans when his image appeared in the “Calling All Angels” pregame video Friday at Angel Stadium, The Times reported. By Saturday’s game, Moreno had been removed from the montage.

• Jenn McCall of Huntington Beach was one of two United States referees selected to referee water polo at the Paris Olympics. When that first match begins, she will become the first female U.S. referee to ever referee water polo at the Olympics, according to this Daily Pilot story. “It’s amazing,” McCall said. “I knew it was a possibility, just because of the other females that are on the list and the tournaments leading up to this. But it’s just really cool.”


The Deshebrada burrito at Los de Juarez Burritos.
The Deshebrada burrito with shredded beef stew, spices and potato, left, Chile Colorado burrito with red chile, beef stew and potato and Rajas burrito with pasilla chile, cream cheese and corn, all burritos are from traditional recipes from Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.
(James Carbone)

• With Los de Juarez Burritos, a new restaurant in Anaheim, business partners Omar De la Vega and Juan Del Rio are slimming the burrito down from the behmoth it has become in America, returning the meal to its beginnings in Mexico, specifically the version from the state of Chihuahua. Gabriel San Román recently interviewed De la Vega to provide TimesOC readers with the mouth-watering details.

Seniors choose food from the Second Harvest Food Bank Granny's Market.
Seniors choose food from the Second Harvest Food Bank Granny’s Market, a “park-it-market” that visited the Villa Anaheim Senior Apartments in Anaheim April 2. The massive mobile walk-up market is housed in a refrigerator for seniors to select fresh dairy, eggs, protein and produce, all free of charge.
(James Carbone)

• A unique mobile Granny’s Market, a “park-it market” provided by nonprofit Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County is delivering fresh food to seniors around Orange County, I learned from this feature story by my colleague Matt Szabo. The mobile market was named in honor of Mary Ann “Granny” Schoellerman, the mother whose family foundation’s contribution helped launch the program.


The annual OC Japan Fair is hosting a first-ever springtime festival at the county fairgrounds.
Organizers of the annual OC Japan Fair are hosting a first-ever springtime festival at the county fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, April 19 through 21.
(OC Japan Fair)

• Carrying a cherry blossom theme, OC Japan Fair makes a spring debut at the county fairgrounds April 19 through 21. Visitors can enjoy food, fashion and cultural exhibits, including taiko drum performances, calligraphy sessions, flower arrangement, traditional tea ceremonies, sake tastings and activities centered around anime and pop culture sensations. Hours are Friday, from 5 to 11 p.m., from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Parking is $12 and general admission costs $10. Children 6 and under and seniors over 65 are admitted free. Tickets can be purchased online here or with cash only at the event.

• The Costa Mesa Playhouse is presenting Yasmina Reza’s “Art,” which plays through April 20. The show tells the story of three people whose longtime friendship is on the rocks when one of the friends buys a completely white painting, sparking a debate about what constitutes art. Performances are on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m. Additional performances will be on April 11 at 8 p.m. and on April 13 and 20 at 2 p.m. To buy tickets, visit

• The 60-voice Meritage Vocal Arts Ensemble presents “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” on Saturday, April 13, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 14, at 2 p.m. at the Huntington Beach Library Theatre, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach. The music is by Alan Menken, the lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and the book by Peter Parnell. “This is a very special performance in my tenure with Meritage,” says Maestro Brian Dehn. “We have the orchestra, all the music, all the costumes, but presented as a concert, allowing the fantastic story and phenomenal music to take center stage.” Tickets and more information can be found here.

• The San Clemente Garden Club will hold its annual Gardenfest Saturday, beginning at 8 a.m. and concluding at 2 p.m. The event will feature plant sales, including garden plant arrangements and a flea market offering household goods, books, toys and garden-related items. For kids, there will be a special gardening activities booth. The festival takes place at San Clemente Community Center, 100 N. Calle Seville. For more details, visit the Garden Club’s website.


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