A 19-year-old Jewish student at the University of Pennsylvania who had been missing from his parents’ Southern California home for almost a week has been found dead in a park.
The body of Blaze Bernstein, 19, was found Tuesday by searchers in brush in Borrego Park where he was last seen the night of Jan. 2, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said.
— OC Sheriff, CA (@OCSD) January 10, 2018
“The case is now being investigated as a homicide,” the department said in a statement. Investigators have multiple leads but have made no arrests.
The department said it would release no information about possible cause of death or condition of the body pending an autopsy.
Blaze Bernstein left his parents’ home in Lake Forest, in Orange County, on Tuesday to visit a friend at a local park.
His mother, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, in an interview published Monday in the Los Angeles Times sent a message pleading with him to come home.
On a Facebook group dedicated to finding Bernstein, his mother called her son’s death “tragic and senseless.” She posted a poll asking group members to vote on different ways to honor Bernstein’s legacy.
“If there’s any way you can come home, whatever has happened, wherever you’ve been, whoever you’ve talked to — it doesn’t matter,” she said. “We love you so much that we would give up everything we have to have you back.”
The friend whom Bernstein met Tuesday evening at Borrego Park told the Orange County Sheriff’s Department that he last saw Bernstein at about 11 p.m. He said that when he returned from going to the bathroom, Bernstein was gone. The friend claimed he then left the park and decided to come back to the park at 4 a.m. to search for Bernstein again. Police initially said that the friend was not considered a suspect.
Bernstein did not take his his keys, wallet, credit cards and eyeglasses when he left his parents’ house to meet the friend, and did not say goodbye, his father told the Los Angeles Times.
#OCSDPIO: Search continues for missing 19 y.o., Blaze Bernstein. Approx 25 OCSD Reserve deputies searching the Whiting Ranch area. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Department at 714-647-7000 Anonymous tips: Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS. pic.twitter.com/8QLm83qJ7N
— OC Sheriff, CA (@OCSD) January 6, 2018
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department had been searching for Bernstein since he was reported missing.
Jewish communities all over the world were saying prayers for Bernstein under his Hebrew name, Chaim Natan Ben Manya.