Suspect arrested in killing of Blaze Bernstein, the Ivy League student found dead in Orange County park

The San Diego Union-Tribune Incident 6 months ago

Orange County Sheriff’s detectives have made an arrest in the killing of Blaze Bernstein, the missing 19-year-old whose body was found in an Orange County park this week, officials said Friday.

In announcing the arrest, investigators did not immediately identify the individual in custody.

A law enforcement source not authorized to discuss the investigation named the man detained as Samuel Woodward, 21, of Newport Beach.

The arrest comes three days after Bernstein’s body was found near a Foothill Ranch park where he vanished Jan. 2.

Detectives working with coroner’s officials had run forensic evidence gathered at the scene for DNA to help identify a potential suspect, law enforcement sources said.

A search warrant affidavit in connection with the investigation of Bernstein’s homicide has also raised questions about the account of a friend who was the last person to see the University of Pennsylvania student.

The friend told detectives he dropped off Bernstein in a Foothill Ranch park shortly before midnight Jan. 2. The warrant, obtained by the Orange County Register, said that the friend had scratches and abrasions on his hands and dirty fingernails and that he said he could not recall the last name or address of a girlfriend he visited after dropping off Bernstein.

When asked about the abrasions by detectives, the young man said that they were from a "fight club" he participated in and that his fingernails were dirty because he fell into a "dirt puddle" during sparring.

The friend had attended the Orange County School of the Arts with Bernstein.

Bernstein was on winter break from college and visiting his parents in Lake Forest when he disappeared.

Bernstein’s family has declined to be interviewed. Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, the victim’s mother, said she needed time to mourn.

“My stomach clenches a little bit at thinking of my tiny little boy (all 46 inches) walking to class by himself, but I know you'll make it to Room 16 when I leave you at the curb of Foothill Ranch Elementary School," she wrote on Sept. 21, 2004.

Bernstein’s body was found next to the school, his mother said.

Jeanne Pepper Bernstein said her daughter, Beaue, 14, is heartbroken over her brother’s death.

“They were very close this past year,” she said in an earlier interview. “He really started to enjoy her and her antics. She looked up to him.”

richard.winton@latimes.com

Twitter: @lacrimes


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