Friend With Dirt Under Nails Arrested in Student's Death


At Penn, he worked at Kelly Writers House, a center at Penn for creative writers and artists, and was on the editorial board for the Penn Review, the university's literary magazine, and was managing editor of the student-run food magazine Penn Appétit.

Bernstein was home visiting his family in Lake Forest during winter break when Woodward picked him up on January 2 and drove with him to several places before winding up at a park. The pair apparently got out of the auto and entered the park around 11 p.m. When news of the arrest came out, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, the victim's mother, responded to reporter Greg Lee from our sister station, KABC, with a statement.

Officials say they will talk about the case later this afternoon with the media. That's when they contacted police and began scouring the park.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas called the killing a "very tragic case", adding that "by all accounts, both of these families are good people whose lives have been turned upside down in a bad way".

Search and rescue crews looked for Bernstein for several days, with assistance from drone pilots. Celebrities also took interest in the case, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mayim Bialik, and Kobe Bryant using their fame to help spread the word. His family, community, and supporters were devastated.

Family and friends attended a candlelit vigil on Wednesday, where mourners gathered to honor the teen's memory. After finding his body, police determined that this was a homicide.

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"With his death, a handsome light has been extinguished and we encourage you to continue to shine his light, through acts of loving kindness", the Bernstein family said in a statement read by their attorney.

Sheriff's officials said the investigation is ongoing and a motive is still not known.

Detectives noted the friend had dirt under his fingernails during the interview, to which he claimed was caused by a fall. A spokeswoman for Orange County Superior Court said the document obtained by the newspaper was later placed under seal. He also had "dirt under the fingernails" on both hands. In the affidavit, the investigator wrote that the friend said the scratches on his hands and dirty nails were from a "fight club" he was involved in. Still, police have not considered the friend to be a suspect, yet. Investigators have been unable to confirm whether there was a third person at the park.

At the press conference, Annee Della Donna, an attorney for the Bernstein family said they were grateful for the work of local law enforcement in this past week. "I don't have specific information on that".

Investigators said Woodward told them Bernstein walked off into the park alone when they arrived.

"With his death, a attractive light has been extinguished and we encourage you to continue to shine his light, through acts of loving kindness", the family said in a statement read by attorney Annee Della Donna.