College student found dead in California park where he went missing

California (KTLA) -- A University of Pennsylvania student who disappeared in an Orange County park while visiting his hometown during winter break has been found dead, officials announced Wednesday.

Homicide investigators have been called in to handle the case, which was opened after 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein was reported missing after a visit to Borrego Park in the Foothill Ranch area of Lake Forest, the Orange County Sheriff's Department said in a statement.

His body was found Tuesday around 2 p.m. in brush surrounding the park, officials said. A 25-member crew from the sheriff's search and rescue force had combed the area from Friday to Sunday, even at one point deploying drones, but found nothing.

An autopsy was expected to be performed on Wednesday to determine an official cause of death, deputies said. Officials were withholding further information about his body and the condition in which it was found until after the examination.

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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 drove to the park with a friend around 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 2 to meet another friend, his parents previously said.

He vanished after walking farther into the park to find the second friend, while the friend who drove him went into a bathroom. The last time he was heard from was around half an hour later, when he sent a final text to a female friend.

After that, his phone apparently stopped working and couldn't be tracked using the Find My iPhone app, his parents said.

The friend who went to the park with him said he left after Bernstein failed to return. He was officially reported missing by his parents on Jan. 3.

His parents believed he didn't intend to be gone for long as he left home without his wallet, ID and glasses. They also maintain he had "zero tolerance" for drugs and alcohol and don't think illicit substances played a role.

Bernstein had been a pre-med student at the University of Pennsylvania and was expected to return to campus Sunday, according to the Orange County Register.

His father, Gideon Bernstein, previously told KTLA Blaze also had a passion for cooking and creative writer, which landed him a role as the managing editor of a student-run food magazine, Penn Appetit.

 

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