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.

22 PHOTOS
Blaze Bernstein homicide case
See Gallery
Blaze Bernstein homicide case

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


(Photo via Blaze It Forward/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)
LAKE FOREST, CA - JANUARY 10: The parents of Blaze Bernstein, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein and Gideon Bernstein, embrace prior to reading a family statement at a press conference at the Orange County Sheriff's Department in Lake Forest on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 to announce that a body discovered in Borrego Park has been identified as their missing son Blaze Bernstein . (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

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

(Photo via Blaze It Forward/Facebook)

NEWPORT BEACH, CA - AUGUST 22: Samuel Woodward leaves a court hearing at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach, CA on Wednesday, August 22, 2018. Woodward is charged with the murder of his former high school classmate Blaze Bernstein in January, 2018. (Photo by Paul Bersebach/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
LAKE FOREST, CA - JANUARY 10: Mourners comfort each other as they join more that 300 people in Borrego Park in Foothill Ranch, Lake Forest on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 for a candlelight vigil for Blaze Bernstein. A make-shift memorial of photos, candles and flowers was setup on a picnic table near the spot where Bernstein's body was found. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
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)
LAKE FOREST, CA - JANUARY 10: A poster with the family photo of Blaze Bernstein was on display at a press conference at the Orange County Sheriff's Department in Lake Forest on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 to announce that a body discovered in Borrego Park has been identified as missing teen Blaze Bernstein. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register 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)
LAKE FOREST, CA - JANUARY 10: The parents of Blaze Bernstein, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein and Gideon Bernstein, left, read a family statement at a press conference at the Orange County Sheriff's Department in Lake Forest on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Orange County Sheriff's Chief of Police Services Brad Valentine, right, listens to the statement about their son. A body discovered in Borrego Park has been identified as their missing son Blaze Bernstein. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

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

(Photo via Blaze It Forward/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 Blaze It Forward/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 Blaze It Forward/Facebook)

LAKE FOREST, CA - JANUARY 10: A note with flowers at memorial set up for Blaze Bernstein in Borrego Park in Lake Forest on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. The memorial is near a wooded at the edge of the park that is thought to be the location where the body of Blaze Bernstein was found. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
#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)

IRVINE, CA - JANUARY 15: An woman overcome with emotion leaves the University Synagogue following the memorial service for Blaze Bernstein in Irvine on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
LAKE FOREST, CA - JANUARY 10: A wooded area at the edge of Borrego Park in Lake Forest on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 is thought to be the location where the body of Blaze Bernstein was found. A memorial of balloons and flowers, left, was placed on a table near the site. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
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)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

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.

 

Read Full Story