Wife, son of Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect slain by brother-in-law: report

The wife, son and mother-in-law of Tampa Bay Rays prospect Blake Bivens were allegedly killed by Bivens' 18-year-old brother-in-law in southern Virginia.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

The wife and baby child of a minor league pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays system were killed in a triple homicide in southern Virginia on Tuesday, local NBC reported.

Pitching prospect Blake Bivens' wife, Emily, their 1-year-old son, Cullen, as well as Bivens' mother-in-law, were allegedly killed by Bivens' brother-in-law, the suspect's uncle told NBC affiliate WSLS.

Police arrested Matthew Bernard, 18, around 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday after chasing him on foot in his hometown of Keeling, Virginia, according to WSLS. Bernard, who was naked at the time of the arrest, has been charged with three counts of first-degree homicide.

Matthew Thomas Bernard, 18, the brother-in-law of Tampa Bay Rays minor-league pitcher Blake Bivens, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Courtesy of Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Office

Sheriffs received a 911 call at 8 a.m. Tuesday that a person had been shot, and arrived to find a woman dead in the driveway of a home, according to the Chatham Star-Tribune. Deputies then found the bodies of another woman and a child inside the house.

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Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor told reporters on Tuesday that he would not release the names of the victims until all family members had been notified. Keeling is in southern Virginia, near the border with North Carolina.

Bryant Bernard, Matthew Bernard's uncle, told WSLS he was stunned by the arrest, calling his nephew “an all-around perfect kid.”

"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," Bernard told the station.

"This boy’s a Christian," he added. "Went to church every Sunday, every Wednesday, every Sunday night. Taught youth groups. Just an all-around perfect kid, in my opinion.”

The Tampa Bay Rays issued a statement in support of Bivens, 24, who plays in their minor league system for the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits in Alabama.

"Our hearts are broken for Blake,'' the team wrote. "We are grieving with him and will support him any way we can."

The Biscuits cancelled a scheduled doubleheader in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Tuesday. Team CEO and managing owner Lou DiBella said in a statement the organization was grieving for Bivens' "unimaginable loss."

"Earlier today we learned that one of our players, Blake Bivens, suffered unimaginable loss,'' he wrote. "First and foremost, the Biscuits' thoughts and prayers are with Blake and all those who have been impacted by this tragedy."

Bivens, a right-hander, was a fourth-round draft pick by the Rays in 2014 out of George Washington High School in Danville, Virginia. He has been a relief pitcher this season for the Biscuits.

The principal at George Washington alerted faculty and staff in an email Tuesday night that the victims in the case were Bivens' wife, child and mother-in-law, the Star-Tribune reported.

Bernard was being held without bail.