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Minor League Baseball pitcher's family killed in triple homicide

Updated 5:59 AM ET, Thu August 29, 2019

(CNN) - The wife, child, and mother-in-law of a pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays organization were killed in a southern Virginia town Tuesday, and police arrested the brother-in-law of minor league baseball player Blake Bivens, authorities said.

Matthew Thomas Bernard, 18, was arrested on three counts of first-degree murder, a spokesperson for Pittsylvania County, Virginia, said in a statement provided to CNN.

The victims were identified Wednesday as Joan Denise Jefferson Bernard, 62; Emily Bernard Bivens, 25; and 14-month-old Cullen Micah Bivens, according to Pittsylvania County Sheriff Michael Taylor. They were the mother, sister and nephew of the suspect, he said.

Taylor confirmed the victims' relationship to Blake Bivens. He said authorities waited for the player to returned to Virginia before releasing the names.

A 911 call around 8 a.m. Tuesday morning reported that a person had been shot, the spokesperson said. Deputies went to the scene where they found a deceased woman in the driveway and the bodies of another woman and a child inside the home.

Bernard was taken into custody as he ran from a wooded area around 12:15 p.m., the spokesperson said. A first court appearance has not been scheduled.

Bernard is on a 24-hour suicide watch at the jail, according to Taylor.

"Something changed him over a quick period of time," said Bernard's uncle Bryant Bernard. "Last week he was having bad dreams, and that he'd seen demons around his bed... He said something to his mother that something's going on and it's gotta stop today and he left."

Bernard was was involved in church and taught youth groups, Bryant Bernard said. He doesn't know "what snapped" with his nephew.

"Unless you know someone, you don't know what happened. We don't know what happened and it's our own family," he said.

Bernard described Emily Bivens as the "glue that held everything together."

The Tampa Bay Rays released a statement Tuesday night on behalf of Blake Bivens.

"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 on Twitter. "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."


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