KEELING, Va. — The mugshot of Matthew Bernard shows a man in a prison-orange jumpsuit, a confused expression on his face and a bandage around his head.
After his arrest near the crime scene Tuesday — fully nude and unarmed, pepper-sprayed and whacked with a police baton after having attacked a man — he is reported to have banged his head repeatedly against the cage in a police car.
Bernard, 18, had to be taken to the emergency room at SOVAH Health-Danville and then to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital before being transported to the jail in Chatham at about 3 a.m. on Wednesday, Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor said.
That type of behavior has not continued, Taylor said, but he is still on suicide watch.
It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon that Taylor confirmed the reports that had been swirling about since shortly after the arrest — that the three homicide victims found at a Keeling home were the mother, adult daughter and her infant son.
Taylor, at a news conference, officially named Joan Bernard, 62; Emily Bernard Bivens, 25; and Cullen Bivens, 1, as the three victims of Tuesday’s triple homicide in Keeling.
It also was confirmed that Emily Bivens is the wife and Cullen Bivens the son of Danville native and Tampa Bay Rays prospect Blake Bivens, 24. Joan Bernard is the mother of both Emily Bivens and the suspect.
Blake and Emily married in 2016, according to a post on his Facebook page from Jan. 10. On that day he posted a picture of the smiling mother holding up and gazing into the face of her son.
“I can go on for days about how you have changed me for the better,” he wrote.
Another post, from June 10, includes a video of a smiling Cullen Bivens in a baby walker and hoisting above his head a kitchen pot.
“Happy 1st birthday to my little man!” Blake Bivens posted with the video and two photos of the infant. “Daddy loves you.”
On her Facebook page, Emily Bivens described herself as a “lover of Jesus, wife, mama, photographer.”
She shared pro-life articles that spoke against abortion. The photos she shared included shots of her and Blake Bivens smiling and one of her holding Cullen Bivens as they watched a baseball game.
The bodies of the three victims were found at their home on Keeling Drive on Tuesday morning, and soon after warnings were issued throughout the immediate area via reverse 911 of a suspect who was declared armed and dangerous.
After a manhunt lasting several hours, around noon a nude Bernard came charging from the woods nearly a mile from the crime scene, evaded the police officer who pepper sprayed him and whacked him with a baton and attacked a bystander before authorities were able to apprehend him. Taylor said a firearm was involved and investigators know how the suspect got it, but he declined to elaborate.
“We want to express our sincere condolences, both to the Bernard family and the Bivens family,” he said.
Investigators did not release the names of the victims during the news conference Tuesday afternoon because Blake Bivens, a pitcher with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits, was traveling by plane to Virginia and had not been officially notified, Taylor said.
“We purposely withheld that until we met with Blake and his family,” Taylor said. “We were trying to be respectful.”
Taylor said he didn’t want to speak to Blake Bivens’ response, but he did say that he was composed and respectful.
“Bivens — has questions just like we all do,” he said.
Bernard’s arraignment hearing could be as early as today, said Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Haskins, but may also happen next week. It all depends on the availability of the judges, he said.
The hearing, where a magistrate will present Bernard with the charges and decide on his bail, could take place in juvenile and domestic relations court or general district court, since one of the victims was a child and the other two were adults, Haskins said.
Prosecutors are not starting with the assumption of capital murder, Haskins said, even though Bernard is accused of killing three people. According to Virginia Law, the threshold for capital murder is more than one person.
“We’re going to look through every possible charge,” Haskins said.
Taylor said the community has rallied together, with ministers and community leaders calling to see how they could help. He also expressed appreciation for the number of localities that contributed to the Tuesday search.
“We had one common goal, and that was to find the subject and protect the community,” he said.
The friends and family that the Danville Register & Bee attempted to contact for this story did not respond.
The Central Boulevard Church of God, where some of the Bernards and Bivens attended, posted a Facebook statement Tuesday afternoon to implore the community to rally together.
“The Bernard and Bivens families are very precious to us and we at Central Boulevard desire your prayers for these dear people, as they are a beloved part of our church family,” the statement read.
Church leadership declined to provide additional comment when contacted.
Representatives from both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Montgomery Biscuits did not provide any comment outside of their official statements.
Emily Bivens was involved with Our Baseball Life, an organization that provides resources and connects professional baseball families. In a statement, they said “She deeply loved this community of baseball women and was a comforting, kind soul to all who knew her.”
The group started a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $1,000 to help Blake Bivens. About $33,000 had been raised by Wednesday evening.