Triple homicide

Pittsylvania County Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Haskins, speaking at a Wednesday afternoon news conference, stressed that the suspect, while charged with three counts of first-degree murder, is innocent until proven guilty. He and Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor have declined to disclose specifics of Tuesday’s triple homicide in Keeling, just north of Danville.

It was the sound of a woman’s scream that drew sheriff’s deputies into the Keeling Road home that was the scene of a triple homicide on Tuesday, court documents state.

The event would eventually lead to the arrest of Matthew Bernard, 18, and charges of first-degree murder in the slayings of his mother, Joan Bernard, 62; his sister, Emily Bernard Bivens, 25; and her 1-year-old son, Cullen Micah Bivens.

Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office deputies initially rushed to the house because of a 911 call at 8:05 a.m. about a possible dead body outside the house, according to a search warrant filed in Pittsylvania County Circuit Court. Once at the scene, a deputy met with the caller — neighbor Rachel Jefferson, also a relative of the family living in the house — near the driveway.

Jefferson told authorities that Matthew Bernard, her nephew, had banged on her door at about 7:30 a.m. When she opened the door, he punched her in the shoulder and ran away, the document states.

A few minutes later, she heard gunfire from the home at 1949 Keeling Drive. She drove to the home and found a body in the driveway. That’s when she picked up the phone and called 911.

Investigator Anthony Rouse was the first officer on the scene, the warrant states. As he approached the house, he passed Jefferson. That’s when he heard “a female screaming coming from the direction of the house.”

Rouse and two deputies then entered the house to “check for victims in need of assistance.”

Inside, they found the body of a woman — Emily Bernard Bivens — lying in a bedroom with blood on her chest and on a bed the body of an infant — Cullen Micah Bivens — who appeared to have been shot in the head.

Officers also found a dead dog in the living room as well as a spent shell casing and blood spatter on the living room wall.

It was when officers left the house, the search warrant states, that they found the body of another woman — Joan Bernard — who appeared to have been shot.

The warrant does not state whose screams it was that brought deputies inside the house.

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