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

Posted at 11:16 AM, Jan 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-10 14:16:44-05

(KGTV/CNS) - Investigators confirmed that a body found near an Orange County park is that of a college student missing since last week, and officials said the man's death was being investigated as a homicide.

Blaze Bernstein, a 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania student, was last seen around 11 p.m. Jan. 2 and was reported missing Jan. 3.

Orange County sheriff's officials and volunteers spent the weekend searching Borrego Park and the Whiting Ranch area. They began searching the Foothill Ranch park area Tuesday afternoon, leading to the discovery of the body, officials said.

Bernstein's body was found in brush, according to officials. No details were released on the cause of death or the condition of the body, and officials said an autopsy would be performed Wednesday.

Bernstein, who was visiting relatives while on winter break from school, disappeared after going to Borrego Park with a friend to meet another person, said Annee Della Donna, an attorney and friend of the family.

He had sent a text message at 9:30 p.m. Jan. 2 with his family's Lake Forest address for a high school buddy to pick him up and take him to the park to meet a third person, she said.

The park is five minutes away from the family home and Bernstein and his friend got there at 10:30 p.m., the attorney said. Bernstein went off alone into the park while his friend waited back in the car, she said.

Bernstein's friend eventually began sending text messages to him when he didn't return, but did not hear back from him, she said. The friend left and then returned at 4 a.m. to look for Bernstein again.

Eventually, the location device on Bernstein's phone stopped functioning and the phone was turned off, Della Donna said.

"He didn't have anything with him," she said. "He didn't have his glasses or his medication. He didn't bring his wallet or a phone charger. I don't think he planned on this being a long trip and he just disappeared."

No suspects were in custody, and investigators asked anyone with information to contact the Orange County Sheriff's Department at (714) 647-7000.