The man accused of killing three family members before stripping naked and leading police on a foot-pursuit in rural Virginia has now formally been arraigned on murder charges.
Matthew Bernard, 18, allegedly killed his mom Joan Bernard, 62, his sister Emily Bernard Bivens, 25, her 14-month old son Cullen Micah Bivens, and a dog at their family home in rural Pittsylvania County late last month.
During his first court appearance on Thursday, he was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of use of a firearm in commission of a felony. When asked by the judge if he understood the charges, he responded, "yes sir” in a low voice, according to WDBJ7 in Roanoke, Virginia. He issued the same reply when asked if he’d work with his defense attorney, the Roanoke Times reports.
A preliminary hearing was then set for Nov. 6.
Bernard’s lawyer, James Martin, said he has filed a motion for evaluation of competency and sanity for his client. That will be reviewed at the November hearing.
After the bodies of Bernard’s family members were discovered last month, a three-hour manhunt for Matthew ensued. Police said he was found naked and unarmed in a wooded area before running from officers. He fled to a church parking lot where he allegedly tried to strangle a church caretaker before he was eventually taken into custody.
Items of clothing –– a white tee, blue sweatpants, and Nike shoes –– was located about an hour from the family home, a search warrant obtained Friday by local outlet Chatham Star-Tribune states. The items were found a day after the murders.
"The clothing appeared to have red stains and what could possibly be particles of human tissue on them," the warrant states.
A rifle was recovered in a different wooded area about 100 yards from the home. A sledgehammer was found in the home’s garage covered in blood, WSET reported. It still has not yet been revealed how the victims died but investigators noted that a gun was involved.
Blake Bivens, who pitches for the Montgomery Biscuits in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, is the husband of Emily and the father of Cullen. He posted last month that his “heart was turned to ash” and his life as he knew it “destroyed” by the murders.
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