Triple homicide

Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor speaks at a news conference outside Keeling Baptist Church on Tueday.

10:15 a.m. AUG. 28 UPDATE: The Tampa Bay Rays organization announced that the victims in the Pittsylvania County triple murder were the wife, daughter and mother-and-law of minor league pitcher Blake Bivens, who plays for the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits and graduated from Danville’s George Washington High School.

“Our hearts are broken for Blake,” Rays officials tweeted Tuesday. “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.”

Bivens’ team was scheduled to play a doubleheader Tuesday night, but the games were canceled.

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KEELING — An 18-year-old man was charged with three counts of first-degree murder Tuesday after authorities arrested him following a chaotic pursuit.

“This is a shock to our community… it’s just a reminder of how fragile life is,” Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor said at an afternoon news conference called to confirm the arrest of Matthew Thomas Bernard of Keeling.

Tuesday’s events began around 8 a.m. when a neighbor found the body of a woman in a driveway in the 1900 block of Keeling Drive, Taylor said.

When deputies arrived, they swept the home and found two additional bodies — another woman and a child.

Alerts swept through social media and a reverse-911 system warning residents that authorities were searching for a suspect who was armed with a rifle and “very dangerous.”

That prompted county schools to go on a code orange lock down, meaning exterior and classroom doors were locked and all students were forbidden from going outdoors.

Authorities set up roadblocks on both sides of Keeling Drive. Armed with assault rifles, officers stood guard and searched through the woods around the area.

Shortly after noon, a resident saw a naked man running in their yard.

A few seconds later, unarmed and naked, a man jogged between two houses on Keeling Drive, while a state police officer demanded he stand down.

The man didn’t stop.

Even when the officer sprayed him in the face and chest with pepper spray, he kept jogging and went into the parking lot of Keeling Baptist Church.

After jogging in a circle while the officer sprayed him, the man headed toward the church, passing a group of media representatives gathered to cover the unfolding news.

Loyd Gauldin, the church’s caretaker, saw the man coming at him and desperately attempted to get back into his truck. Before he could get safely inside, the naked man pushed him away from the truck’s door and put his hands around Gauldin’s neck.

An officer hit the man with his baton, causing him to leave Gauldin and continue his jog with pepper spray dripping down his face and chest. He traveled through the grass along the side of the church and onto Keeling Drive.

Authorities who were investigating the triple homicide crime scene less than a mile up the road arrived and formed a blockade. Tactical teams and a K-9 successfully corralled the man, who initially attempted to run past them.

The chase and apprehension lasted four minutes. More officers raced into the scene from both directions over the next several minutes as the man’s screams periodically pierced the air.

Police identified the man as Bernard.

Taylor estimated that as many as 100 officers were involved in the case, including K-9 units, Virginia State Police and units from other localities.

Authorities could not provide a motive for the shooting.

“We don’t know what happened to set off this chain of events,” Taylor said.

Taylor would not say if a gun had been located.

Neighbors said Bernard was a 2019 graduate of Dan River High School.

The bodies are being taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Roanoke for autopsy.

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