Hundreds attend funeral for slain college student Blaze Bernstein, 19

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Hundreds of people attended a funeral service for Blaze Bernstein, 19, a Jewish college student found dead in a park near his parent’s California home after being missing for nearly a week.

The funeral was held Monday at University Synagogue in Irvine, California.

Hours later, the Orange County Register, citing a search warrant affidavit obtained by the newspaper, reported that Bernstein had been stabbed more than 20 times, leading authorities to investigate whether the teen was killed in an act of rage.

Samuel Woodward, 20, a former classmate of Bernstein’s at the classmates at the Orange County School of the Arts, was taken into custody on Friday afternoon for the alleged murder. Woodward could be charged with the murder as early as Tuesday, according to the newspaper.

The murder weapon has not been found, according to reports. Woodward was arrested after crime lab technicians determined that blood found on a sleeping bag in his possession belonged to Bernstein, the Register reported.

It is believed that Bernstein was pursuing a romantic relationship with Woodward, and that Bernstein kissed Woodward in the hours before the murder, which Woodward rebuffed, the Register reported citing the affidavit.

Bernstein had been visiting his parents’ home in Lake Forest in southern California while on winter break from the University of Pennsylvania. His body was discovered in a shallow grave in Borrego Park on Jan. 9, a week after he went missing from the park. HUndreds attended a candlelight vigil in his memory after the discovery was announced.

On Monday morning ahead of the funeral, Bernstein’s parents posted a message on a website set up to memorialize their son, saying that they “won’t succumb to hate.”

“On this day of true sadness, we want to thank the media and people around the world for your support. We are heartbroken. As we lay Blaze to rest, we ask that communities around the world that were touched by Blaze’s life, help us keep his memory and loving spirit alive,” Gideon and Jeanne Pepper Bernstein wrote.

“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,” their statement also said.

They called on the public to “work towards something good. Stop being complacent. Do something now,” adding “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.”