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Photo from Gideon Bernstein

After being reported missing a week ago, College sophomore Blaze Bernstein, 19, has been found dead in a park in Orange County, Calif. 

Authorities found a dead body in the perimeter of Borrego Park on Jan. 9, said Carrie Braun, a spokesperson for the Orange County Sheriff's Department, to The Daily Pennsylvanian. Authorities later identified the body to be Bernstein, who had gone missing on Jan. 2, just five days before he was supposed to return to Penn for the spring semester. Police are now investigating the case as a homicide. 

Reports of Bernstein's death comes after days of expansive search and rescue missions in the area where he was last spotted. Bernstein's father, Gideon Bernstein, had also worked with friends of the family to conduct independent drone operations.

In an emailed statement addressed to all Penn undergraduates, Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum notified the community of Bernstein's death. 

"I came to know Blaze, and I grieve his passing as I do all student deaths. I realize these losses have the potential to affect many, many members of our Penn family," read the email, which was sent at 4:38 p.m. Jan. 10 and was written on behalf of Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett as well.

Cade wrote that a support session will take place at noon Jan. 11 in the Ben Franklin Room in Houston Hall. 

A smaller vigil will be held at the Kelly Writers House on Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. "for friends to come together in a familiar place," University spokesperson Monica Yant Kinney wrote in an email to the DP. The vigil is open to all students who wish to attend.

In a live broadcast on ABC News, the Chief of Police Services for the City of Lake Forest Lieutenant Brad Valentine said they believe Bernstein was killed the night that he went missing and that his body has stayed in the Borrego Park region since the time of his disappearance. While the sheriff's office had previously decided to end search operations in the Whiting Ranch wilderness area adjacent to Borrego Park, they decided to return for reasons that Valentine declined to disclose. 

"The change in the weather and the rain helped us find him," Valentine said, adding that he could not discuss further details because there was an active investigation into Bernstein's death. 

Bernstein was last seen at around 11 p.m. on Jan. 2 on Borrego Park. 

He was picked up by a friend that night and they drove to meet a third person in the park. The friend left the car to use the restroom, but Bernstein never returned. 

The lieutenant also added that a search warrant had been served in the city of Newport Beach as part of the investigation, but that there were currently no suspects in custody. 

In an emotional statement to the press, Bernstein's father, Gideon Bernstein, continued to urge the public to assist the sheriff's office in their work. 

"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," he said. 

The elder Bernstein, who has led a range of search operations in the past week, added, "Our children are so strong and we just want to see resolution."

At Penn, Bernstein had been involved in various student publications. Just before the break, Bernstein was elected to become the managing editor of Penn Appétit, a student-run food magazine. He had also been hired as a copy associate for 34th Street Magazine, and was listed as a copy associate for Penn Review, Penn's literary magazine.  

News of Bernstein's death comes just one day after students and faculty attended a memorial for College freshman William Steinberg, who died in a plane crash along with his family. Steinberg, who died on Dec. 31, was the eighth Penn student to die in 2017. 

This is a breaking story that was last updated at 4:52 p.m. on Jan. 10. Check back here for updates. 

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