The man who claimed he last saw his friend and college student, Blaze Bernstein, at a park in California, was arrested on Friday in connection with his death.
The Orange County Register reports that Orange County authorities arrested 20-year-old Samuel Woodward shortly after he left his Newport Beach home on Friday afternoon. At around 1:15 p.m. a photo was taken of the suspect arriving to the jail.
The suspect in the Blaze Bernstein homicide case arrived at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department headquarters wearing a hoodie that says "Keep the Peace" https://t.co/rud1nD7wA2 pic.twitter.com/5En5fO120X
— O.C. Register (@ocregister) January 12, 2018
During a press conference on Friday, a sheriff’s spokesperson said that although Blaze’s disappearance was initially treated as a missing persons case, the abundance of clues, information, and the ultimate discovery of the victim’s body, found buried in a shallow grave on the south end of Borrego Park, turned it into a homicide case. Authorities believe that Blaze and the suspect drove around to several locations before ultimately ending up at the park.
Woodward previously told homicide detectives that he drove Blaze to Borrego Park, at Foothill Ranch, on Jan. 2 at around midnight. He said that he waited in his car while Blaze walked to the park, then waited for around an hour the victim to return, but he never did. Woodward said he then drove away, but returned a few hours to look for Blaze in and around the area, but couldn’t locate him. It’s unclear why the suspect didn’t check to see if Blaze made it home to his parent’s house, who live around five minutes away from the park.
Authorities are not specifying the condition of Blaze’s body or how he died yet, as there is still an ongoing, active investigation in the case. Woodward is expected to learn what his formal charges are by Tuesday at the latest. So far, there’s no information regarding motive.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, detectives wrote in a warrant affidavit that while interviewing Woodward shortly after the victim’s disappearance, they noticed his hands were scratched and he had “dirt under the fingernails” on both of his hands.
The warrant also stated that the friend was also “breathing heavy, talking fast and visibly shaking.” He explained he was a member of a “fight club” and had gotten scratched and dirty while participating. Further, he apparently didn’t want his hands to touch any doors while on his way to talk to detectives.
“On their way out of Sheriff’s Headquarters, (investigators) noticed every door (the friend) had to touch on the way out of the building he pulled his jacket over his hand to prevent his hand and fingers from touching any part of the doors he touched,” the affidavit read.
When asked, Woodward agreed to let officers search his car. Inside the vehicle, officers found camping equipment, a black belt, and a large plastic bin inside.
Woodward attended the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana with Blaze. After graduation, Blaze enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania and moved to an off-campus apartment close to the school. He was back in California on winter break to visit family when the suspect reportedly picked him up.
The story is still developing. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Blaze Bernstein/Facebook]