(CHATHAM, Va. (AP) A close-knit community in southern Virginia is struggling to come to grips with the slayings of three family members and the arrest of a teenage relative as new details emerged Thursday about the killings.
Matthew Bernard, 18, of Keeling, is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of his sister, Emily Bernard Bivens; his nephew, Cullen Bivens; and his mother, Joan Bernard.
Emily Bivens was married to Blake Bivens, a 24-year-old pitcher for Alabama’s Montgomery Biscuits, a Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. Cullen Bivens was the couple’s 14-month-old son.
”You don’t wish this on any community, any family,” Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor said.
”We’re a small community. It affects us all,” he said.
A ”celebration of life” service for the slain family members is planned for Saturday.
In Montgomery, the Biscuits painted ”BIV” on the ground behind home plate before a game against Pensacola while players and coaches grappled with the situation. Before that game, they were to hold a moment of silence, with another planned before the Rays’ home game Friday against the Cleveland Indians.
”Nobody’s thinking about baseball,” said Biscuits Manager Morgan Ensberg, who traveled back to Virginia with Bivens from a road trip Tuesday.
”It was awful,” Ensberg said of the plane ride. ”Blake is an incredibly strong man. He’s an incredibly strong man, and he went through just a rotation of tearing up, and then he would shake and then he would just stare.
”I didn’t let him out of my sight.”
Montgomery pitching coach R.C. Lichtenstein remembers pregame moments when Bivens would walk over to see his wife and hold Cullen.
Biscuits pitcher Ryan Thompson said Bivens’ family was on his mind ”all the time.”
”His family was everything to him,” said an emotional Thompson, who described Bivens as a close friend with a ”hilarious” sense of humor.
”He never lets the game get in the way of who he is as a human being. He’s such a great guy, and something like this couldn’t happen to a better human being,” Thompson said.
New details about the slayings were released Thursday in a criminal complaint filed against Matthew Bernard.
According to the complaint, Bernard’s rampage began Tuesday morning at a neighbor’s house when he came to her home, punched her in the arm and then ran away.
The neighbor then heard multiple gunshots at the house next door, police said. The neighbor drove to the house and found a woman’s body in the driveway. Inside, she found the bodies of another woman and a small child.
Officers found two victims with visible gunshot wounds to the head and rifle shell casings near all three bodies.
A .30-30 rifle was found in a wooded area behind the house and a sledgehammer with blood was found in the garage, the court documents said.
The criminal complaint did not offer any motive for the killings, and authorities have declined to comment.
After the bodies were discovered, an intense manhunt brought as many as 100 officers to Keeling, a tiny community near the North Carolina border.
Bernard emerged naked from the woods about four hours later, running past TV cameras to a church parking lot, where he was recorded trying to choke a church caretaker.
An officer unleashed pepper spray and struck Bernard with a baton before he was captured, officials said.
Bernard banged his head against the cage in a police vehicle after being taken into custody and was taken to a hospital for treatment, police said. He was released and was in jail Thursday, where he was being held without bail and kept on suicide watch, police said.
A vigil was held at The River Church in Danville, Virginia, Wednesday night. Senior pastor Jackie Poe led those in attendance in prayer for the Bivens and Bernard families.
Avery Stevens, pastor of Keeling Baptist Church, said he was in his office where he also works as an insurance agent when he saw the television coverage of Bernard’s capture near his church.
”This is a small, rural community, pretty quiet most of the time like most small, rural communities. But the fact of the matter is, it can happen anywhere, and right there at the doorstep,” he said.
”Pray for the family,” he said. ”Praying for the community. Praying for healing.”