ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY NEWS RELEASE
Case # 18HF0073
Date: January 17, 2018
SANTA ANA, Calif. – Good morning and thank you for joining us today. We have been working with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department around the clock since Blaze Bernstein was reported missing on January 3.
As the search continued, Blaze’s family, friends, fellow Orange County residents, and tens of thousands of people around the world were all hoping there was an innocent explanation as to why Blaze had not returned home. We were all hopeful he would show up and reunite with his friends and family and life for all involved would resume. As we all became sadly aware last week, that is not the case.
This morning, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office filed one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for personal use of a knife against 20-year-old Newport Beach resident Samuel Woodward. As prosecutors, we have an ethical duty to file charges that are supported by evidence in our possession that would prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. The investigation is ongoing and we are continuing to search for evidence that may support special circumstances allegations.
As I just stated, the investigation is ongoing, but here are the few facts we are able to release at this time:
- The suspect, Samuel Woodward, knew Blaze, the victim, from when they went to school together at Orange County School of the Arts.
- Woodward is 6’2” tall and weighs 185 pounds, Blaze was 5’8” and weighed 135 pounds.
- Woodward is accused of communicating with Blaze through Snapchat on January 2.
- Woodward is accused of picking up Blaze at his parent’s home in Lake Forest after they spoke via social media.
- The exact time and place of the murder is still under investigation.
- He is accused of having abrasions, scratches, and dirt on his hands.
- He is also accused of cleaning up the car he was using the night he picked up Blaze.
- Woodward is accused of visiting the crime scene after the murder.
This case was solved through old-fashioned detective work and surveillance, as well as sophisticated examination of digital, physical, and DNA evidence.
This is a senseless murder of a young man who possessed a combination of a high-caliber brain and a poet’s heart. We at the OCDA offer our sincerest condolences to the Bernstein family. Blaze should be back at college right now, doing what college kids do, going to class, organizing study notes, hanging out with his friends, and dreaming about who they were going to become. I know he was treasured by his family and loved by his friends.
Unfortunately in this case, there have been many reports and speculation, many from unattributed sources. We have been and will continue to investigate tips and evidence. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Homicide Unit Supervising Investigator Kory Degraffenreid at 714-347-8492.
Our priority on this brutal murder of a 19-year-old Ivy Leaguer is to make sure Woodward is brought to justice and held accountable. Because of that, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office will not reveal additional information about this case until the preliminary hearing. As a community, we hope this case may serve as an opportunity for tolerance and understanding.
This concludes the formal portion of our press conference and we have time to take a few questions.
TONY RACKAUCKAS, District Attorney
Susan Kang Schroeder, Chief of Staff
Michelle Van Der Linden,Spokesperson