Friend of U Penn student arrested in murder case

Blaze Bernstein center with his parents Jeanne Pepper and Gideon Bernstein

Blaze Bernstein center with his parents Jeanne Pepper and Gideon Bernstein

Authorities in Ocean County, California, have made an arrest in the death of University of Pennsylvania sophomore Blaze Bernstein.

Officials arrested Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20, on suspicion of homicide Friday in the death of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein. Woodward said he then drove away, but returned a few hours to look for Blaze in and around the area, but couldn't locate him.

Bernstein, who was home visiting family in Orange County during his school break from the University of Pennsylvania, was last seen alive about 11 p.m. on January 2. At around 1:15 p.m. a photo was taken of the suspect arriving to the jail.

Bernstein went missing just five days before he was planning on returning to Penn for the start of his second semester. Witnesses told authorities that Bernstein had met a friend and the two drove to the park, where Bernstein got out of the vehicle. The friend said Bernstein had complained about his grades in school and "seemed depressed but never said anything about wanting to hurt himself".

Blaze Bernstein has been missing since Tue., Jan. 2, 2018.

A search warrant affidavit, obtained by The Orange County Register, said that Woodward 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.

It was the only homicide reported in Lake Forest in at least the past four years, according to authorities.

The warrant also stated that the friend was also "breathing heavy, talking fast and visibly shaking".

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At one point, the friend opened the doors to his rental auto and allowed two detectives to look inside. Inside the vehicle, officers found camping equipment, a black belt, and a large plastic bin inside.

He agreed to be further interviewed at the sheriff's headquarters in Santa Ana, where his story "stayed fairly consistent".

While Barnes said that authorities have confirmed that Woodward and Bernstein knew each other from high school, they do not yet know the nature of their relationship.

"On their way out of Sheriff's Headquarters, (investigators) noticed every door (the friend) had to touch on the way out of the building he pulled his jacket over his hand to prevent his hand and fingers from touching any part of the doors he touched".

"Revenge is empty", Bernstein's mother, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, wrote on Twitter after the arrest was announced.

"Nothing will bring back my son so we ask the world to please honor Blaze's memory by doing an act of kindness today - don't wait - do it now", the grieving mom told the Los Angeles Times.

'My only hopes are that he will never have the opportunity to hurt anyone else again and that something meaningful can come from the senseless act of Blaze's murder.

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