New details emerge in Virginia triple homicide of pitcher Blake Bivens’ family

A naked Matthew Thomas Bernard, 18, chokes a man Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, near his Keeling, Va., home. Bernard is charged with murder in the deaths of his mother, Joan Bernard, 62, his sister, Emily Bivens, 24, and Bivens' 14-month-old son, Cullen.
Caption
A naked Matthew Thomas Bernard, 18, chokes a man Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, near his Keeling, Va., home. Bernard is charged with murder in the deaths of his mother, Joan Bernard, 62, his sister, Emily Bivens, 24, and Bivens' 14-month-old son, Cullen.

The first indication that something was amiss at 1949 Keeling Drive came when Matthew Thomas Bernard went to a neighbor’s home and punched the woman in the arm before running off. A few minutes later, she heard gunshots.

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New court documents filed in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, offer a glimpse into the bloodshed that took place Tuesday morning at a home in Keeling, where the wife, infant son and mother-in-law of minor league pitcher Blake Bivens were gunned down. Bivens, 24, pitches for the Montgomery Biscuits, the Alabama-based, Tampa Bay Rays-affiliated Double-A team.

"We are devastated by the loss of our friend and fellow baseball wife," the group wrote on Facebook, as well as on a GoFundMe page set up for Blake Bivens. "Emily had an incredible heart for the Lord and shared His light to many through her writings in Baseball Chapel. She deeply loved this community of baseball women and was a comforting, kind soul to all who knew her. Our hearts are with her husband Blake and her family during this unimaginable time."

Along with the GoFundMe page, which had raised more than $42,000 as of Thursday afternoon, Our Baseball Life is also raising funds for Bivens through sales of a wall print designed by his wife.

“Home is wherever I am with you,” the print reads.

Emily Bivens' obituary describes her as a "kind and gentle soul and a light to all who knew her." An Averett University graduate with a degree in music performance, she loved photography and teaching music.

Her obituary describes Cullen as the love of his parents' lives. It does not list Matthew Bernard as her sibling, but lists four other siblings besides him.

Joan Bernard's obituary lists all five of her children as survivors.

The Biscuits canceled a double-header Tuesday night with the Chattanooga Lookouts, describing the slayings as a “tragic event within the Biscuits family.” A later statement from managing owner and CEO Lou DiBella described the killings as an “unimaginable loss” for Bivens.

“First and foremost, the Biscuits’ thoughts and prayers are with Blake and all those who have been impacted by this tragedy,” DiBella wrote. “We appreciate the outpouring of support and concern, but ask that you respect the privacy of the family during this difficult time.”

The Rays also reached out on social media to offer the ball player condolences and support.

“Our hearts are broken for Blake,” the team tweeted. “We are grieving with him and will support him any way we can.”

The Rays and the Houston Astros held a moment of silence in Bivens' honor prior to their game on Wednesday. The Tampa Bay Times reported that the Rays are expected to do the same at home Friday for their next game.

The Biscuits were anticipated to resume their own schedule Thursday in Montgomery, without Bivens, who rushed home to Virginia after his wife and son were killed.

Bivens' Instagram account description is brief: "Rays pitcher. Emily Marie." Emojis of a heart and a diamond ring accompany the words. The couple married in January 2016, according to Bivens' Facebook profile.

Their son was born in June 2018. Cullen was their first child.

Bivens posted a video of his son on June 10 in honor of Cullen's first birthday.

“Happy 1st Birthday to my little man!” Bivens wrote. “Daddy loves you!”

Fans pour out their hearts on Bivens' page, offering condolences from Alabama to Spain.

“I am completely heartbroken for you and your loved ones,” wrote Kimberly Wilson, of Brownsburg, Indiana. “Lean on others and the Lord (if you are a believer) to help you face each day. Know that strangers honestly hurt for you.”

Todd Montgomery, of Tampa, expressed a similar sentiment. “I don’t know you and probably never will, but my thoughts are with you,” Montgomery wrote.

“I am a baseball mom to two boys and many others on their teams, and my heart is breaking for you and your family,” wrote Kim Cameron, of Georgetown, South Carolina. “Prayers for peace that passes all understanding to embody you now and in the days to come.”

“My God, I’m so sorry, Blake,” Victoria Vitoria wrote from Spain. “I can’t believe someone would do this to a baby. God have them in his glory. From Spain, kisses.”

A family member of the Bernards, Jenn Stallard, shared a photo of Joan Bernard, Emily Bevins and Cullen Bevins on Facebook, writing that she wanted to make that photo go viral instead of the "disheartening ones (of Matthew Bernard) the family has had shoved in (their) faces lately."

Stallard indicated that mental illness played a part in the slayings and said she loved all involved, including Matthew Bernard because she knows “the real him.”

"You guys will be missed so much. The most gentle and sweetest people known in my family," Stallard wrote. "Joan, you were always so nurturing to not only all of your children and grandchildren but all of your nieces and nephews as well. Emily, you were so tenderhearted with a beautiful voice just like an angel, and now you are one.

“I love you and I’m sorry for what happened. I know that you all have forgiven Matthew because he wasn’t aware of what he done.”

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