Friend Arrested As Suspect In Murder Of Blaze Bernstein

University of Pennsylvania sophomore Blaze Bernstein, pictured right, went to the park with high school buddy Samuel Woodward Jan. 2, authorities said. Woodward was arrested in Bernstein's death on Friday. (Orange County Sheriff's Department / Associated Press)

Authorities on Friday arrested a friend in the killing of a 19-year-old Jewish University of Pennsylvania student whose body was found buried in a shallow grave at a California park.

Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 20, of Newport Beach was taken into custody for investigation of homicide after DNA evidence linked him to the death of college sophomore Blaze Bernstein, Orange County Undersheriff Don Barnes said.

Woodward was the last person to see Bernstein alive, Barnes said.

Woodward was interviewed by investigators after Bernstein was reported missing by his parents on Jan. 3.

A sheriff’s investigator wrote in court filings that Woodward appeared nervous, had scratched hands and dirt under his fingernails, and avoided touching doors with his hands while leaving the sheriff’s office building.

When news of the arrest came out, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, the victim’s mother, responded to KABC reporter Greg Lee with a statement:

“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,” her statement said, in part.

Bernstein was home visiting his family in Lake Forest during winter break when Woodward picked him up on Jan. 2 and drove with him to several places before winding up at a park.

Woodward told investigators that he left the park after Bernstein went out and didn’t return or respond to social media messages.

The two knew each other from high school, Barnes said.

He said investigators were still trying to determine a motive and would not release details of the crime, which he called a murder.

Prosecutors said they would review evidence as they determine what charges to file. Barnes said Woodward had asked for a lawyer.

It was not immediately possible to reach Woodward in custody, where he listed his occupation as “Nerf games,” according to the jail’s website.

Authorities searched for Bernstein for nearly a week with assistance from drone pilots and found his body on Tuesday after recent rains partially exposed it.

The death of Bernstein rocked the community of Lake Forest, 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles. Hundreds of people held a candlelight vigil to remember him.

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

Bernstein had attended Orange County School of the Arts for creative writing. He was recently chosen to edit a culinary magazine at the University of Pennsylvania.

His parents urged community members to keep his memory alive by working to improve the world.

“With his death, a beautiful light has been extinguished and we encourage you to continue to shine his light, through acts of loving kindness,” the family said in a statement read by attorney Annee Della Donna.



  1. So sad. May the family be comforted. To pd, you are 100% right . His eyes look scary. Parents beware of your kids friends. Especially if his eyes look like these. Disgusting how a person can be so wicked.

  2. Common sense person:

    This oy was 19 so how could the parents control or even know who his friends?

    Yes it is scary – but even with little kids – how much control do parents have?

  3. I hate to say it but I know way too many choshiva yidden whos eyes look scarier then this oisvorf ,so stop with the “eyes look” hock

  4. You cannot always tell a dangerous oisvorf by the eyes….most forensic studies conclude that orange hair is a much better indicator of a criminal and perverted mindset.

  5. To yerushalmit. I have little kids and Baruch Hashem I have control. My kids are beautiful through and through. And if a parent does not have control, then they aren’t a good parent. Parents these days unfortunately leave the kids to be raised by themselves and sad things come out of it. The fact that parents don’t know their kids friends is very sad. I am guessing either you don’t have kids, or YOU have no control over them and to satisfy your own failure you say no one can have control over their kids.

  6. uh, common-sense-person? you might want to run that parenting philosophy of yours by a qualified, experienced expert or two. or, just do it the hard way and learn on the fly when your kids b”H reach their teens.

    you do know that 19 year olds can join the military, smoke and, in many countries, drink, yes?. they can vote, get married etc. exactly what kind of control do you expect you’ll have over your 19 year old “children”?

    I expect that you’ll respond negatively to my comment, but I hope that even so, it will sit on your heart and mind and perhaps help you to consider making some changes in thought and behavior with regard to parenting.