Barnes said DNA evidence connected Woodward to the crime, though he did not elaborate further.
The pair knew each other from high school, according to multiple reports.
In a press conference held by the Orange County Sheriff's Department on January 12, authorities confirmed that the suspect taken into custody is Samuel Woodward, 20, who along with Bernstein, attended the Orange County School of the Arts, one of the top schools in the country to study creative writing.
According to investigators, Woodward was interviewed in connection with the case and appeared nervous during the discussion, had scratched hands and dirt under his fingernails, and avoided touching doors with his hands while leaving the sheriff's building. Authorities located his body in Borrego Park a week later.
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Detectives said, however, that the friend's story - which included driving away from the park where he had dropped off Bernstein after not hearing from him for an hour - "stayed fairly consistent" across two interviews.
When news of the arrest came out, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, the victim's mother, responded to ABC7 reporter Greg Lee with a statement.
"Finally. My thoughts are: Revenge is empty". Authorities said they were investigating his death as a homicide but would not say how he died. It will never bring back my son.
Video released by the sheriff's department and obtained by CBS Los Angeles shows Woodward in handcuffs being escorted by investigators.
Bernstein had attended Orange County School of the Arts for creative writing.
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According to an affidavit published in the Register, police twice interviewed the man now identified as Woodward, who said he drove the man to a park so that he could meet a third person.
According to the OC Sheriff's Department, Woodward was the last person in contact with Bernstein before he disappeared.
He waited for about an hour and tried to Bernstein, the newspaper reported, and he told investigators that he then left the park around 1 a.m., drove to a girlfriend's house before returning to the park at about 3:40 a.m. after Bernstein had not yet responded.
He had scratches and abrasions on his hands which he said were from a "fight club" that he took part in.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said Woodward won't appear in court until Tuesday, adding that he was not ready to say what charges Woodward will face, the L.A. Times reported. They asked him how his hands got so dirty and he said he "fell into a dirt puddle" during the sparring session. Inside the vehicle, officers found camping equipment, a black belt, and a large plastic bin inside. But, the affidavit says, while he had told investigators he went to his girlfriend's home after he left Bernstein in the park, he said he could not remember her last name and did not know where she lived.
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