Authorities announced Friday that a suspect was arrested in connection to the death of University of Pennsylvania student Blake Bernstein. Bernstein, 19, was found dead in a California park earlier in the week after he went missing the week before.
Orange County police named the suspect arrested as Samuel Woodward, 20. Woodward was reportedly one of Bernstein’s friends and the pair attended high school together, authorities said in a Friday press conference. Few details about Woodward were released, though authorities said he was from Newport Beach.
Woodward was the last person to see Bernstein alive. Bernstein was reported missing by his family Jan. 2. Authorities located his body in Borrego Park a week later. Woodward apparently told police he drove Bernstein to the park but did not get out of the car with him and left when he didn’t return.
An affidavit obtained by the Orange County Register revealed that two days after Bernstein disappeared, Woodward had scratches on his hands and dirt under his fingernails. He explained both by saying he was part of a “fight club.” In the affidavit, authorities also said the friend appeared nervous and was “visibly shaking.”
“Based on inconsistencies in the story of [Woodward], we focused on him as a suspect,” said Barnes, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian.
DNA evidence connected Woodward to Bernstein’s death, said Undersheriff Don Barnes.
Investigators said they were working to determine a motive in the crime.
“We will continue to search for justice for Blaze and his family,” Annee Della Donna, an attorney for the Bernstein family, said at the press conference, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian. “Our words cannot express how grateful the family is to their community.”
An autopsy was underway to determine Bernstein’s exact cause of death.
“Revenge is empty,” Bernstein’s mother, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, wrote on Twitter after the arrest was announced. “It will never bring back my son. 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. Now Do Good for Blaze Bernstein.”