Three Murder Suspects Linked to Atomwaffen: Where Their Cases Stand

June 18, 2019
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by Priyanka Boghani Digital Reporter & Producer
Marcia Robiou Abrams Journalism Fellow, FRONTLINE/Columbia Journalism School Fellowship
Catherine Trautwein Tow Journalism Fellow, FRONTLINE/Columbia Journalism School Fellowship

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. (Photo by Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Over a period of eight months spanning from 2017 to early 2018, five deaths had links to the Atomwaffen Division, a violent neo-Nazi group.

FRONTLINE and ProPublica first investigated Atomwaffen, which has secretive cells throughout the United States, in Documenting Hate: New American Nazis. The film explores how the white power organization promotes lone wolf activity, which on its face can often appear as random, isolated incidents, but has much more entrenched commonalities.

Documenting Hate chronicled the cases of three men accused of murder — all members or associates of Atomwaffen. Here is what has happened in the cases since the film first aired in November 2018.

Devon Arthurs

In May 2017, Devon Arthurs allegedly killed two of his roommates in their apartment near Tampa, Florida, and then went to a neighborhood smoke shop where he held people inside at gunpoint. The then-18-year-old told law enforcement that his murder victims were members of Atomwaffen, a group that he had recently distanced himself from. He went on to say that they had been plotting large-scale violence: bombing power lines, synagogues, a nearby nuclear plant.

“They were planning bombings and stuff like that on, on countless people,” he told police.

Investigators found bomb-making materials in the garage, which belonged to a fourth roommate Brandon Russell, the founder of Atomwaffen. Last year, Russell was sentenced to five years in jail.

Arthurs’s case has been proceeding through a circuit court in Hillsborough County, Florida. Not long after he was arrested, he seemed to indicate to authorities that he struggled with mental health issues, and in February 2018 he was deemed unfit to stand trial. Following that determination, Arthurs was transferred to a state hospital. He returned to jail in March 2019.

Although doctors at Florida State Hospital came to the conclusion Arthurs could stand before a judge, other health professionals disagreed on his competency. The next court appointment in his trial is scheduled for July 25, where the timing will be set for a future competency hearing. He has plead not guilty to all charges, including first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated assault.

Nick Giampa

Nick Giampa has been charged with the fatal shootings of Buckley Kuhn-Fricker and Scott Fricker, the parents of his ex-girlfriend, who were killed at their home in Reston, Virginia in December 2017. Giampa, who was 17 at the time of the murders, allegedly snuck into his ex-girlfriend’s home, shot her parents and then turned the gun on himself. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition. After he stabilized, he was charged as a juvenile with two counts of murder.

Shortly before they were killed, Kuhn-Fricker and Fricker confronted their daughter about Giampa’s social media accounts, which they said documented his “outspoken” neo-Nazi beliefs. The teenager showed a particular fascination with Atomwaffen, often sharing its propaganda. The couple urged their daughter to end the relationship, according to the Washington Post.

Initially, Giampa was ruled incompetent to stand trial due to brain damage from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. This May, after spending months in a mental hospital, Giampa was deemed competent to stand trial. The Post reported that a judge had set a preliminary hearing for his case in late July.

Samuel Woodward

Blaze Bernstein was visiting his parents in Lake Forest, California, in January 2018 when he went missing. Six days later, the 19-year-old’s body was found in a park, partially buried. He had been stabbed more than 20 times, according to the OC Register, which obtained a search warrant affidavit.

Later that month, Samuel Lincoln Woodward, a former high school classmate of Bernstein’s, was arrested and charged with the murder. The presiding judge initially charged him with murder and personal use of a deadly weapon, but later added two hate crime enhancements, according to a representative of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors have alleged that Woodward, who has pled not guilty, killed Bernstein because he was gay. Woodward, who was 20 when he was arrested, faces life without parole.

The next pre-trial hearing is slated for August 2. Woodward’s defense team says that their client struggled with his sexuality and autism spectrum disorder — factors that they said made him vulnerable to white supremacist ideology online, according to BuzzFeed News.

A FRONTLINE-ProPublica investigation found that Atomwaffen celebrated Bernstein’s murder, calling Woodward a “one-man gay Jew wrecking crew” in confidential chat logs. Woodward is currently being held without bail.

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