‘Good Christian boy’ snapped: Matthew Bernard was arrested on Tuesday after leading police on a chase in the nude through rural Virginia and was charged with three counts of first-degree murder
New details have emerged about the 19-year-old Virginia man accused of murdering the wife, baby son, mother-in-law and pet dog of a Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect – with the suspect’s relatives claiming he is mentally ill.
Matthew Bernard was arrested on Tuesday after leading police on a chase in the nude through rural Virginia and was 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. His wife Emily, one-year-old son Cullen, and his mother-in-law, 62-year-old Joan Bernard, were found dead in their home. A family spokesman exclusively revealed that Matthew has been struggling with mental illness and ‘came to a breaking point.’
Matthew Bernard went on a rampage right in the media staging area, running naked past the cameras and trying to strangle a pastor at Keeling Baptist Church
Matthew, 19, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. After he allegedly murdered his mother, Joan Bernard, [left], his sister Emily Bivens [right], and his baby nephew, one-year-old Cullen Bivens
This undated family portrait shows [L to R]: Blake Bivens with his son Cullen, wife Emily, the 19-year-old brother-in-law Matthew Bernard and their mother, Joan Bernard
Matthew Bernard’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 Bernard said. The uncle said Matthew is a student at Danville Community College who regularly attended church.
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.
Another family member has blamed his actions on mental health problems.
‘Matthew was an amazing soul and person,’ she wrote. ‘
‘Unfortunately He was suffering with mental illness and came to a breaking point’.
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.
The tragedy Befalling Bivens’ family was first publicly identified Jeff Passan
‘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, a devout Christian and mother, was a photographer.
Emily Bivens and young Cullen are seen watching one of Bivens’ games earlier this month. mother and child were found brutally slain on Tuesday morning
The tragic turn of events was uncovered on Tuesday morning at about 8am, when a neighbor saw a body in the driveway of a home on Keeling Drive in Pittsylvania, Virginia.
Police and paramedics rushed to the scene, and found two additional bodies 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 staged in the area.
‘ABC 13’s Kyle Wilcox was standing in the media staging area when Bernard ‘ran past’ reporters.
Bernard then allegedly attacked a Keeling Baptist Church pastor, 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.
Triple-murder suspect Matthew Bernard strips naked and chases cop before his arrest in rural Virginia on Tuesday
After attacking the pastor, Bernard continued running toward the murder scene, unfazed by mace and police batons, until he was wrestled to the ground.
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 launched to help the victims’ family, as of Wednesday morning had surpassed the $1,000 goal, with more than 25,000 raised.