Missing UPenn student found dead in California; case investigated as homicide

By Sara Shayanian  |  Jan. 11, 2018 at 7:24 AM
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Jan. 11 (UPI) -- A 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania student who went missing in California was found dead -- and his death is being investigated as a homicide, authorities said.

The body of Blaze Bernstein was found in the brush surrounding Borrego Park in Foothill Ranch -- the park where he disappeared on Jan. 2, the Orange County Sheriff's Department said.

"Based on what we know, I believe Blaze was probably killed that night," Lt. Brad Valentine, the chief of police services for the City of Lake Forest, Calif., said.

No suspects are in custody, but a search warrant was executed Tuesday night in Newport Beach, south of Los Angeles.

Father Gideon Bernstein said the family was "devastated" by the news of his son's death and said Blaze was "a brilliant, colorful and charismatic man."

"As this investigation moves from search and rescue to homicide investigation, we ask for your continued support in providing tips and information to the Orange County Sheriff's Department," he said.

Blaze Bernstein was visiting his family from college over the holidays when he went to Borrego Park to meet someone for unknown reasons, attorney and family friend Annee Della Donna said. He arrived at the park with a friend but went off alone while his friend waited in the car.

When Bernstein failed to return text messages, the friend left and returned later to look for him.

"He didn't have anything with him," Donna 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."

Bernstein's parents say his leaving personal possessions behind was evidence that he planned to return home.

"The fact that he didn't tell us he was going out tells us that he wasn't planning to be gone very long," mother Jeanne Pepper Bernstein said.

Authorities have not yet detailed the cause of death.

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