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Body of missing UPenn student Blaze Bernstein found in California park

Blaze Bernstein, who was home visiting his family, was last seen around 11 p.m. on Jan. 2 while entering a park.
/ Source: The Associated Press

LAKE FOREST, Calif. — The body of a University of Pennsylvania student who went missing while home in Southern California on winter break has been found and his death is being investigated as a homicide, authorities said on Wednesday.

Authorities had been searching for 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein for days when his body was found Tuesday afternoon in brush surrounding a neighborhood park in the Foothill Ranch area of the city of Lake Forest, the Orange County sheriff's department said in a statement.

Bernstein, who was home visiting his family, was last seen around 11 p.m. on Jan. 2 while entering Borrego Park. Witnesses said Bernstein met up with a friend and the two drove there, and he got out of the vehicle and went into the park, authorities said.

Related: Authorities end search in wilderness area for UPenn student

Search and rescue crews looked for Bernstein for several days, with assistance from drone pilots.

Authorities declined to release information about the cause of death, saying their investigation was ongoing. An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday.

Bernstein, a sophomore, was planning to major in psychology and later study medicine, The Orange County Register reported his father, Gideon, saying last week.

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

When Bernstein didn't return, his friend began sending him text messages but did not hear back, she said, adding the location device on his phone eventually stopped working.

"The only thing I can think of is that maybe he was abducted," the Register reported Bernstein's mother, Jeanne, saying on Sunday. "I can't figure out why anybody would want to hurt my son."