Investigators arrest high school friend of Penn. student found dead in Orange County

Posted at 2:34 PM, Jan 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-12 19:55:45-05

(KGTV) - Orange County Sheriff's officials have arrested the high school friend of a University of Pennsylvania student, who was found dead in a park this week.

Officials arrested Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20, on suspicion of homicide Friday in the death of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein. Sheriff's investigators said they believe Woodward picked up Bernstein on Jan. 3, drove to multiple locations in the Foothill Ranch area, before arriving at Borrego Park where Bernstein disappeared. 

Bernstein's body was discovered Tuesday in a shallow grave in a brushy area on the perimeter of the park after a week-long search, investigators said.

RELATED: Missing Penn student found dead in Orange County park; homicide suspected in Blaze Bernstein's death

Bernstein's mother commented on the news on Twitter, following a tweet from ABC-affiliate KABC.

"Finally. My thoughts are: Revenge is empty. 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," Jeanne Pepper tweeted.

Bernstein was visiting relatives in Orange County while on winter break from school. Relatives said he was going with a high school friend to meet another person at the park the night he disappeared.

Investigators said Woodward told them Bernstein walked off into the park alone when they arrived. He eventually began sending text messages to Bernstein when he didn't return after an hour. Woodward left and then returned at 4 a.m. to search again but didn't find Bernstein, investigators said.

Investigators said Woodward's story had inconsistencies, which prompted authorities to consider him a person of interest.

Sheriff's officials said the investigation is ongoing and a motive is still not known.

The results are still pending on an autopsy on Bernstein to establish a cause of death.