'Friend' arrested in connection with death of Blaze Bernstein


'Friend' arrested in connection with death of Blaze Bernstein

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.

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.

An attorney and friend of the family told CBS Los Angeles that Bernstein and a friend arrived at the park around 10:30 p.m., and Bernstein went off alone to meet another unnamed person.

On one site, he called the Confederate flag a symbol of Southern pride and not hate, according to the report.

On Jan. 4, two days after Bernstein disappeared, detectives spoke with Woodward again at Borrego Park and noticed that his hands had several small scratches and abrasions, according to the affidavit obtained by the Register.

Bernstein was picked up by a high school friend on January 2 and was heading to meet a third person in the park, Annee Della Donna, an attorney and friend of the family, told the newspaper.

Sheriff's homicide Sgt. Don Voght said it appears Woodward altered his appearance somewhat during the search and investigation.

The friend also had what looked like "dirt under the fingernails" on both of his hands and, during a follow-up interview at the sheriff's headquarters, took measures to avoid touching any doors in the office with his hands or fingers, the newspaper reported.

When asked where the dirt came from, Woodward said he "fell into a dirt puddle", according to the newspaper.

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Woodward also had scratches on his hands, which police say he told them he had sustained while participating in a fight club.

Investigators said they were working to determine a motive in the crime.

Social media users shared their memories of Bernstein in a Facebook group set up to remember him.

"With his death, a handsome 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.

"Revenge is empty", Bernstein's mother, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, wrote on Twitter after the arrest was announced. It will never bring back my son.

A friend at school told WPVI that she had been communicating with Bernstein over break over ideas for the magazine for the next semester. "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. He alleged he returned to the park several hours later but could not find Bernstein.

At one point, the friend opened the doors to his rental vehicle and allowed two detectives to look inside.

Woodward could remember neither the name nor address of his "girlfriend", police said.

He agreed to be further interviews at the sheriff's headquarters in Santa Ana, where his story "stayed fairly consistent".