Suspect in slaying of 19-year-old Ivy League student pleads not guilty

California (KTLA) -- The former classmate suspected of killing 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, whose body was found in a shallow grave in Borrego Park, has pleaded not guilty in connection with the homicide.

Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20 was charged Jan. 17 with murder in the stabbing death of Bernstein, a pre-med student at the University of Pennsylvania who was visiting his parents in Lake Forest for winter break when he was killed.

Woodward entered his plea during an arraignment on Friday. His bail was set at $5 million.

Woodward allegedly drove Bernstein to Borrego Park on Jan. 2 before stabbing him multiple times and then burying his body in a shallow grave in the park's dirt perimeter.

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Blaze Bernstein was last seen around 11 p.m. on January 2nd at Borrego Park in Foothill Ranch, CA.


(Photo via Help Us Find Blaze Bernstein/Facebook)

SANTA ANA, CA - JANUARY 17: Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20, of Newport Beach, a suspect in the murder of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, appears in court at the Orange County Central Justice Center on January 17, 2018 in Santa Ana, California. Woodward is charged with murder with a sentencing enhancement of personal use of a knife. (Photo by Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SANTA ANA, CA - JANUARY 17: Msgr. Wilbur Davis, of Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach, explains to the media how Samuel Lincoln Woodward was named after Samuel in Bible and took communion two weeks ago. Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20, of Newport Beach, left, a suspect in the murder of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, appeared in court at the Orange County Central Justice Center on January 17, 2018 in Santa Ana, California. Woodward is charged with murder with a sentencing enhancement of personal use of a knife. (Photo by Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Blaze Bernstein was last seen around 11 p.m. on January 2nd at Borrego Park in Foothill Ranch, CA.


(Photo via Help Us Find Blaze Bernstein/Facebook)

SANTA ANA, CA - JANUARY 17: Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20, of Newport Beach, left, a suspect in the murder of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, consults with his attorney Edward Munoz as he appears in court at the Orange County Central Justice Center on January 17, 2018 in Santa Ana, California. Woodward is charged with murder with a sentencing enhancement of personal use of a knife. (Photo by Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SANTA ANA, CA - JANUARY 17: Attorney Edward Munoz, defense attorney for Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20, of Newport Beach, a suspect in the murder of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, is questioned by reporters after Woodward appeared in court at the Orange County Central Justice Center on January 17, 2018 in Santa Ana, California. Woodward is charged with murder with a sentencing enhancement of personal use of a knife. (Photo by Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Blaze Bernstein was last seen around 11 p.m. on January 2nd at Borrego Park in Foothill Ranch, CA.


(Photo via Help Us Find Blaze Bernstein/Facebook)

SANTA ANA, CA - JANUARY 17: Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20, of Newport Beach, left, a suspect in the murder of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, consults with his attorney Edward Munoz as he appears in court at the Orange County Central Justice Center on January 17, 2018 in Santa Ana, California. Woodward is charged with murder with a sentencing enhancement of personal use of a knife. (Photo by Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Blaze Bernstein was last seen around 11 p.m. on January 2nd at Borrego Park in Foothill Ranch, CA.


(Photo via Help Us Find Blaze Bernstein/Facebook)

SANTA ANA, CA - JANUARY 17: Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20, of Newport Beach, right, a suspect in the murder of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, consults with his attorney Edward Munoz as he appears in court at the Orange County Central Justice Center on January 17, 2018 in Santa Ana, California. Woodward is charged with murder with a sentencing enhancement of personal use of a knife. (Photo by Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Blaze Bernstein was last seen around 11 p.m. on January 2nd at Borrego Park in Foothill Ranch, CA.


(Photo via Help Us Find Blaze Bernstein/Facebook)

#OCSDPIO: Search continues for missing 19 y.o., Blaze Bernstein. Approx 25 OCSD Reserve deputies searching the Whit… https://t.co/kjcSELPXJm

Blaze Bernstein was last seen around 11 p.m. on January 2nd at Borrego Park in Foothill Ranch, CA.


(Photo via Help Us Find Blaze Bernstein/Facebook)

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Bernstein was reported missing by his parents the next day, but his body wasn't discovered until a week later.

DNA evidence found at the crime scene and in Woodward's vehicle led to his arrest on Jan. 12.

He was ordered to be held without bail when he was charged.

Woodward and Bernstein both previously attended the Orange County High School of the Arts in Santa Ana.

During an interview with investigators about the night Bernstein disappeared, Woodward said the 19-year-old, who was openly gay, had kissed him on the lips, prompting Woodward to push him away.

The investigators noted that Woodward had clenched his jaw and fists while recounting the story.

ProPublica last week reported that Woodward belonged to a neo-Nazi group.

Bernstein's parents believe their son, who was found with more than 20 stab wounds, may have been the victim of a hate crime.

Authorities have not announced a motive in the case.

During a news conference Friday morning, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas discussed how sexual orientation and gender are not protected under the special circumstance allegations for murder.

He explained that a bill in the California Senate calls for the LGBTQ community to be included in the special allegations enhancements, though it would have no impact in the Bernstein case and Woodward would not qualify for the death penalty.

“If the sexual orientation of a victim is a substantial factor in the defendant's intent to murder, then he or she should be subjected to the punishment of life without the possibility of parole or the possibility of the death penalty,"  Rackauckas said Friday. "It’s time now that California places members of the LGBTQ community as a protected class of victims of special circumstance murder.”

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