A private funeral service was held Monday for Blaze Bernstein, a 19-year-old Ivy League student who went missing in Lake Forest while home on winter break and was found dead a week later, leading to the arrest of a former classmate on suspicion of murder.
Bernstein's family issued a statement "on this day of true sadness," thanking the public for its support during the search for Bernstein and the discovery of his body.
"We are heartbroken," according to the family. "As we lay Blaze to rest, we ask that communities around the world that were touched by Blaze's life, help us keep him memory and loving spirit alive.
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"Blaze was on a path to repair our world and it is a moral imperative that we all take steps now to make sure that his dream is realized. We won't succumb to hate, bitterness or disillusionment; we will use wisely the time we have left together. When we stop crying we will start doing positive things to affect change. We ask that everyone work towards something good. Stop being complacent. Do something now.
"In the months to come, as part of our healing process, we too will act to heal the world. That is what Blaze would want. We still believe that people are good. We have seen this firsthand in the tremendous amount of support we have received from people worldwide. We can do this!"
The private memorial service was held at University Synagogue in Irvine. Relatives and friends who attended the service were given a small baking spatula and a cake recipe that Bernstein created himself and had prepared over the holidays.
Bernstein, a pre-med student at the University of Pennsylvania, went missing around 11 p.m. Jan. 2 at Borrego Park in Lake Forest. He was reported missing the next day by his family after he missed a dental appointment and failed to answer telephone calls and text messages. After a weeklong search, his body was found Jan. 9 on the outskirts of the park, in a shallow grave.
On Friday, one of Bernstein's former classmates at the Orange County School for the Arts, 20-year-old Sam Lincoln Woodward, was arrested near his home in Newport Beach in connection with Bernstein's death.
Sheriff's officials said Woodward drove Bernstein to the park the night of Jan. 2. He told investigators that Bernstein wandered into the park and disappeared. Woodward eventually left the park at 1 a.m., telling investigators he drove to a girlfriend's house in Tustin, but returned about 3:40 a.m. when Bernstein still had not surfaced, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by the Orange County Register.
In subsequent interviews, however, Woodward was unable to remember the girlfriend's name or address, according to the affidavit. Woodward also had scratches and abrasions on his hands, which he attributed to a "fight club" in which he was involved. He also had dirt under his fingernails, with Woodward saying he had fallen into a mud puddle.
Woodward had initially told investigators he drove Bernstein to the park to meet a third person.
Sheriff's officials said DNA evidence ties Woodward to Bernstein's death, although they have not provided any specifics. Investigators also have not said how Bernstein died, nor have they indicated a possible motive for the killing.