(BORREGO SPRINGS, Calif.) -- A University of Pennsylvania student who mysteriously disappeared in California last week has now been found dead -- and his death is being investigated as a homicide, authorities said Wednesday.
The body of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein was found around 2 p.m. Tuesday in the brush surrounding Borrego Park in Foothill Ranch -- the park where he disappeared a week earlier, the Orange County Sheriff's Department said. The rainfall in the area helped officials find the body, the sheriff's office said.
Blaze Bernstein's father, Gideon Bernstein, was emotional at a news conference Wednesday as he stood embracing his wife. He said the family is "devastated" by the news, calling his son "a brilliant, colorful and charismatic man."
Blaze Bernstein, who had been home in Southern California for winter break, met with a friend last Tuesday and the two drove to Borrego Park, witnesses told the sheriff's department. Blaze Bernstein apparently got out of the car about 11 p.m. and went into the park, the sheriff's department said. That's when he vanished and hasn't been heard from since. The park area was searched Friday, Saturday and Sunday to no avail.
Sheriff's officials said Wednesday that the Ivy League sophomore was likely killed the night he disappeared.
An autopsy will be performed Wednesday, the sheriff's office said.
Authorities did not release the cause of death or the condition of the body.
"Sheriff’s investigators are actively following multiple leads, but no suspect is in custody," the sheriff's office said. A search warrant was served in Newport Beach Tuesday night, the sheriff's office said.
The sheriff's office said Wednesday that Blaze Bernstein's friend was interviewed several times and is not in custody. Authorities had said earlier this week that they did not consider his friend a suspect.
Gideon Bernstein said, "As this investigation moves from search and rescue to homicide investigation, we ask for your continued support in providing tips and information to the Orange County Sheriff's Department."
Embracing his wife, the grieving father called her his "rock," adding, "Our children are so strong and we just want to see resolution.
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