Friend arrested in connection with Blaze Bernstein homicide investigation

A friend has been arrested in connection with the homicide of Blaze Bernstein, the Lake Forest 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania student, whose body was found in an Orange County park a week after he was reported missing, an Orange County Sheriff's Department officials announced Friday.

The suspect was identified as Samuel Woodward, 20, a friend of the victim, officials announced during a news conference. He was arrested early Friday on suspicion of homicide.

The two went to the same high school and had recently been in communication.

Bernstein was found dead in a shallow grave on the outskirts of Borrego Park on Tuesday after being reported missing by his parents on Jan. 3.

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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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The death was determined to be a homicide, but it remains unclear exactly how Bernstein died. The motive also remains under investigation.

A 16-page affidavit obtained by the Orange County Register this week described information given to investigators by Woodward who said he drove the victim to the park on Jan. 2.

According to Woodward, Bernstein went to the park alone to meet someone else and the friend didn't see the victim again. The friend then said he went to his girlfriend's house in Tustin, but was unable to tell investigators her last name or where exactly she lived, according to the affidavit.

Woodward, of Newport Beach apparently had scratches on his hands and dirt under his fingernails, but he nervously explained that he belonged to a "fight club" and had gotten his hands dirty in a scuffle.

(Samuel Woodward via KTLA)

Woodward had camping equipment inside his car and apparently tried to cover his hands when he tried to open a door, according to the document.

Based on the inconsistencies of their interviews with Woodward, as well as DNA evidence, authorities served search warrants and arrested him in connection with the homicide.

Investigators said that Woodward had been "cooperative" during the investigation into the missing person's case, but he subsequently requested an attorney after being taken into custody.

Though Woodward told authorities that Bernstein was meeting a third person at the park, investigators do not believe anyone else was involved in the crime.

It is unclear exactly where the homicide took place, and remains under investigation.

 

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