An 18-year-old Virginia man was arrested Tuesday in the slayings of three family members after leading police on a massive manhunt while fully nude.
Matthew Bernard is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of his sister, identified as Emily Bivens, the pair’s mother and Emily’s toddler son, Cullen, whom she had with husband Blake Bivens, a minor league pitcher for Tampa Bay Rays affiliate team, the Montgomery Biscuits.
Bernard, a student at Danville Community College, is believed to have shot and killed his three relatives at a home in Keeling, Va., an unincorporated area near the Virginia-North Carolina border, early Tuesday morning before fleeing the scene on foot, ABC News reports.
Officers with the Pittsylvania County Police Department responding to the scene discovered one of the adult female victims dead in the driveway of the home and the other adult and 1-year-old child dead inside.
Local schools were placed on lockdown as an estimated 100 officers descended into the surrounding wooded area to search for the suspect, who was described as armed with a rifle and “very dangerous,” the Danville Register & Bee reports.
A reporter for local station WSET was standing in a media staging area near the crime scene on Tuesday afternoon when Bernard reemerged from the woods and ran past reporters fully naked. He then attacked a church groundskeeper in a nearby parking lot, putting his hands around the man’s neck before being chased by a police officer, who sprayed him with mace and hit him with a nightstick but could not stop him.
Bernard was eventually apprehended by officers as he ran back toward the crime scene.
The Montgomery Biscuits canceled a scheduled doubleheader Tuesday in Chattanooga, Tenn., over the tragedy affecting its team member.
Lou DiBella, the team’s CEO & managing owner, later released a statement, thanking the community for its support and requesting privacy for Bivens and his family.
“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,” DiBella said. “Our hearts are broken for Blake.”
Bernard was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment following his arrest. His first court appearance has yet to be scheduled.
Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor told reporters that investigators are currently searching for a motive behind the brutal crime, according to the Danville Register & Bee.
“We don’t know what happened to set off this chain of events,” Taylor said.
The suspect’s uncle, Bryant Bernard, told WSLS he was shocked to learn of the violent crime allegedly perpetrated by his nephew.
“In my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined it. Not him,” he told the station. “Of all the people in this world. I never could have imagined it.”
“This boy’s a Christian,” he added. “Went to church every Sunday, every Wednesday, every Sunday night. Taught youth groups. Just an all-around perfect kid, in my opinion.”
A GoFundMe has been started by friends of the Bivens family to cover the cost of Emily and Cullen’s final expenses.