Three days after the body of a missing teenager was found buried
in a shallow grave in an Orange County park, detectives
announced Friday that they had arrested a former high school
classmate in the slaying.
Nineteen-year-old Blaze Bernstein was reported missing Jan. 3 by
his family, who became concerned after he didn't show up for a
dental appointment and they found his wallet and glasses in his
room. He was on winter break from the University of Pennsylvania
and visiting his parents in Lake Forest when he disappeared.
Detectives used his Snapchat account to identify a friend who
had picked him up the night before, said Orange County
Undersheriff Don Barnes. That friend told investigators that he
had left Bernstein after he walked off by himself in Borrego
Park, Barnes said.
But Barnes said investigators found inconsistencies in what
Samuel Lincoln Woodward said.
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.
When asked about the abrasions by detectives, Woodward said that
they were from a "fight club" he participated in and that his
fingernails were dirty because he fell into a "dirt puddle"
Barnes said DNA results led to the arrest of Woodward, 20, on
suspicion of homicide. He was under surveillance and was taken
into custody after leaving his house about 1:15 p.m. Friday.
Barnes said both Bernstein and Woodward had attended the same
high school, identified in the warrant as the Orange County
School of the Arts. Barnes said the motive in the case was
unknown and declined to discuss the condition of Bernstein's
body, which was found after rain runoff exposed part of the
Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, mother of the deceased student,
tweeted, "Finally," after hearing of the arrest. She told The
Times, "I would just say that we are grateful for the fine men
and women in the [Sheriff's Department] who have worked
tirelessly to get answers for our family, our community and the
"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. Celebrate the goodness that still exists in
this world in spite of these acts of senseless evil. People are
good and Blaze knew that," she said. "Honor yourselves and him."
In an earlier interview, Bernstein said that her 14-year-old
daughter, Beaue, was heartbroken over her brother's death.
"They were very close this past year," she said. "He really
started to enjoy her and her antics. She looked up to him."
A woman who spoke from behind the door Thursday at Woodward's
home in Newport Beach said she had no comment.
"I would appreciate it if you would respect my privacy," she
Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas called the killing a
"very tragic case," adding that "by all accounts, both of these
families are good people whose lives have been turned upside
down in a terrible way."
"They are both in grieving situations," Rackauckas said.
Woodward won't be in court until Tuesday, the district attorney
said, adding that he was not at this point ready to say what
charges will be filed against him.
7:40 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with additional
information and comments from a press briefing.
3:47 p.m. This article was updated to add quotes from
2:50 p.m.: This article was updated to add that an L.A. Times
reporter went to Samuel Woodward's residence in Newport Beach on
This article was originally published at 2:45 p.m.