News, Culture & Society

Teen murder suspect is on suicide watch after ‘killing his mother, baby nephew and sister’

This mugshot made available by the Pittsylvania County Sheriff shows triple murder suspect Matthew Bernard, 18, of Keeling, Virginia

The 18-year-old man charged with murdering his mother, baby nephew and sister, who is the wife of a Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect, is on suicide watch in custody. 

Matthew Bernard ran through the streets naked during a police chase in Keeling, Virginia, on Tuesday, before he was wrestled by a police dog and arrested.

A mugshot made public on Wednesday afternoon by the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office shows Bernard dressed in an orange jail garb. 

His head, both his ears and a portion of his throat is seen in the photo covered in white gauze bandages. Some scratches are also visible on his forehead.

During a press conference held on Wednesday afternoon, Pittsylvania County Sheriff Michael Taylor revealed that Bernard injured himself by banging his head against the cage inside a police vehicle at the time of his arrest. 

Bernard was transported to an emergency room and was later transferred to an area hospital to be examined and treated for his injuries, after which he was booked into jail at 3am Wednesday. He is on suicide watch behind bars.

Bernard has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder. 

Blake Bivens, a 24-year-old pitcher with the Ray’s Double-A affiliate the Montgomery Biscuits, learned of his family’s slaughter just hours before a scheduled double header.

 

Matthew Bernard, 18, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder

Joan Bernard, her daughter Emily Bivens and baby Cullen were murdered on Tuesday

Bernard, 18, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. He is accused of murdering his mother, Joan Bernard, his sister Emily and his baby nephew, Cullen (right)

Matthew Bernard puts his hands on Keeling Baptist Church groundskeeper Loyd Gauldin, as a state police officer attempts to take him into custody on Tuesday in Keeling, Virginia

Matthew Bernard puts his hands on Keeling Baptist Church groundskeeper Loyd Gauldin, as a state police officer attempts to take him into custody on Tuesday in Keeling, Virginia

This undated photo that was exclusively provided to DailyMail.com by Matthew's cousin shows (L to R) Blake Bivens with his son Cullen, wife Emily, 18-year-old Matthew and their mother, Joan Bernard

This undated photo that was exclusively provided to DailyMail.com by Matthew’s cousin shows (L to R) Blake Bivens with his son Cullen, wife Emily, 18-year-old Matthew and their mother, Joan Bernard 

His wife Emily, 14-month-old son Cullen, and Emily’s mother, 62-year-old Joan Bernard, were found dead in their home.

Authorities say they still ‘don’t know’ the motive behind the college student’s killings – after a relative exclusively told DailyMail.com that he has been struggling with mental illness and ‘came to a breaking point.’  

During the press conference, Sheriff Taylor admitted police were still trying to ‘figure out’ the answers. 

‘We won’t go into the whys because we don’t know yet. We’re trying to figure that out ourselves,’ he said at the briefing in Chatham, Virginia.   

‘I think that (Bivens) has questions, just as we all do at this point.’  

The 18-year-old faces three counts of first-degree murder and use of a firearm during a felony, suggesting that he shot his victims. Taylor said the motive is still unclear in the triple homicide.  

Bernard is being held without bond pending his initial court appearance.  

Matthew’s uncle, Bryant Bernard, spoke to the station WSLS following his nephew’s dramatic capture, which played out in front of news cameras, saying he was stunned by what happened.

‘In my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined it. Not him. Of all the people in this world. I never could have imagined it,’ Bryant said.

The uncle said Matthew is a student at Danville Community College who regularly attended church.

Blake Bivens, a 24-year-old pitcher with the Ray's Double-A affiliate the Montgomery Biscuits, learned of his family's murder in southern Virginia on Tuesday

Bivens' wife and young child were among the three victims of the triple-murder

The slain wife and child of Rays prospect Blake Bivens are seen right with him, and left

Bivens wished happy first birthday to his son on Instagram on June 10

Bivens wished happy first birthday to his son on Instagram on June 10

The college was placed on lockdown during the hour-long search for Bernard in the wake of the killings.

‘This boy’s a Christian. Went to church every Sunday, every Wednesday, every Sunday night. Taught youth groups. Just an all-around perfect kid, in my opinion,’ the murder suspect’s uncle said.

Police so far have not said anything about a possible motive, but Bryant revealed that as recently as last week, his nephew had confided in his mother that he was having bad dreams. He did not go into further detail.

Jenn Stallard, a cousin of Matthew’s, released a statement exclusively to DailyMail.com, in which she blamed his actions on mental health problems. She also shared a family photo showing Blake, Emily, baby Cullen, Joan Bernard and Matthew all huddled together in front of the camera, flanked by a dozen other relatives.   

‘Matthew was an amazing soul and person,’ she wrote. ‘Always smiled and loved his family to the fullest. Matthew was a very active member in our church along with his family and thoroughly involved in the youth. As all of this is still unfolding and a lot of things are playing out it is being portrayed very wrong.

Matthew was a student at a community college

He attended church and taught youth groups

Matthew was a student at a community college. He attended church and taught youth groups

‘Unfortunately he was suffering with mental illness and came to a breaking point. Matthew is my cousin and I will love him and be there for him if I am ever able to because what the public has seen was not him at all and as a family, we would never imagine this could have happened.

‘As this is all still extremely fresh for our family, I remain cautious for our words not to be twisted nor our family’s name, including Matthew’s, not to be turmoiled any more than it already has. My main concern would just be pushing the fact that mental illness doesn’t have a type and awareness of help when needed.’  

The victims were first publicly identified as members of Bivens’ family by ESPN reporter Jeff Passan

Police have not publicly stated how they believe the murders were carried out, though they did say Bernard was armed with a rifle.

The Medical Examiner’s Office in Roanoke will officially determine the cause and manner of death.

‘Earlier today we learned that Blake Bivens, a pitcher with our Double-A affiliate, the Montgomery Biscuits, suffered a terrible family tragedy in southern Virginia,’ the Rays said in a statement. 

Bivens is seen pitching for the Single-A Bowling Green Hot Rods in 2016. He has moved up through the organization to Double-A and is considered a hot prospect

Bivens is seen pitching for the Single-A Bowling Green Hot Rods in 2016. He has moved up through the organization to Double-A and is considered a hot prospect

‘Our hearts are broken for Blake. We are grieving with him and will support him any way we can. We ask that everyone respect the privacy of the Bivens family and the Biscuits family during this extremely difficult time,’ the statement continued.

The Biscuits cancelled both of the games scheduled for Tuesday upon news of the murders. 

A right-handed hurler, Bivens was selected by the Rays in the fourth round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Washington High School in Danville, Virginia. 

Bivens married his wife Emily in 2016. Their son Cullen Micah Bivens turned one in June, according to social media posts.

Emily was a photographer and devout Christian, her Facebook page shows. 

Jackie Poe, the senior pastor of The River Church in Danville, told the AP on Wednesday that Blake Bivens was a longtime member of the church, and that he and his wife Emily would come to services during the baseball off-season.

Emily and young Cullen are seen watching one of Bivens' games earlier this month. The mother and child were found brutally slain on Tuesday morning

Emily and young Cullen are seen watching one of Bivens’ games earlier this month. The mother and child were found brutally slain on Tuesday morning

Bivens is seen last year wearing a Charlotte Stone Crabs uniform with his wife and son

Bivens is seen last year wearing a Charlotte Stone Crabs uniform with his wife and son

‘He’s a fine young man,’ Poe said. ‘Just a great example of a young man in baseball. And just a good Christian young man.’

‘His wife was just a wonderful young lady. Whenever he was off season, they would be in church.’

Poe said Bivens’ parents are ‘just completely shocked and devastated and yet holding on to their faith and trusting in God.’

The church planned to hold a community prayer gathering Wednesday evening.

‘That’s what we do,’ Poe said. ‘And that’s the answer. There are no other answers for a tragedy like this.’ 

Emily and Bevins were married in 2016, and their son was born in June 2018

Emily and Bevins were married in 2016, and their son was born in June 2018

The tragic case unfolded on Tuesday morning at about 8am, when a neighbor saw the body of Joan Bernard in the driveway of a home on Keeling Drive in Pittsylvania, Virginia.

Police and paramedics rushed to the scene, and found two additional bodies of Emily Bivens and her 14-month-old son inside the home.  

Bernard was immediately named as a suspect, and police issued a public alert to be on the lookout for the teenager.

‘He is armed with a rifle and considered very dangerous,’ the alert stated.

Within hours, Bernard was spotted running in the area, fully nude.

The police pursuit unfolded right in front of news cameras that had congregated in the area. 

‘ABC 13’s Kyle Wilcox was standing in the media staging area when Bernard ran past reporters,’ WSET-TV reported.   

Bernard then allegedly attacked a Keeling Baptist Church groundskeeper, trying to strangle him.

Cops maced and tasered Bernard to no avail, and captured him as he tried to run toward the nearby murder scene 

Bernard went on a rampage right in the media staging area, running naked past the cameras and trying to strangle the groundskeeper at Keeling Baptist Church

Bernard went on a rampage right in the media staging area, running naked past the cameras and trying to strangle the groundskeeper at Keeling Baptist Church 

After attacking the groundskeeper, Bernard continued running toward the murder scene, unfazed by mace and police batons, until he was wrestled to the ground

After attacking the groundskeeper, Bernard continued running toward the murder scene, unfazed by mace and police batons, until he was wrestled to the ground 

State Police chase Bernard after attacking the Keeling Baptist Church groundskeeper

State Police chase Bernard after attacking the Keeling Baptist Church groundskeeper

Video from WSET shows the moment Bernard ran after a police officer who is seen spraying him with mace on the church’s property.

Bernard is heard screaming a bit before he ran over to the groundskeeper and appeared to try and choke him.

The officer then ran over to help the elderly man and Bernard ran off again. 

He was then seen running down the road where a police car and several other officers were waiting to Taser and arrest him.  

When he was arrested, Bernard was not armed with a weapon. 

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help the victims’ family. As of Wednesday morning, more than $13,000 has been raised.  



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


Comments are closed.