Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect: 'My heart was turned to ash' when wife, son, mother-in-law murdered

Grief-stricken pitcher Blake Bivens mourns the deaths of his family, who police say were killed by his brother-in-law.

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By Phil Helsel

"My life as I knew it is destroyed," wrote a brokenhearted Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect whose wife, son and mother-in-law were murdered this week in Virginia.

Blake Bivens detailed his grief Thursday in an Instagram post shared by the Double A team he plays for, the Montgomery Biscuits. It appears to be the first time the 24-year-old baseball player has spoken out about the tragedy in Pittsylvania County. "Two days ago my heart was turned to ash," he wrote.

Bivens' brother-in-law, Matthew Bernard, 18, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder. He is accused of killing his mother, Joan Bernard, 62; his sister Emily Bernard Bivens, 25; and her child, Cullen Bivens, 14 months old. The sheriff said Wednesday a motive was unknown.

"The pain my family and I feel is unbearable and cannot be put into words. I shake and tremble at the thought of our future without them," Blake Bivens said in the statement.

He called his wife, Emily, "my sweetheart" and wrote "you are the best wife and mother this world has ever seen."

"You made me into the man I am today and you loved me with all of my flaws. You brought our precious baby boy into this world and made our family complete. Your love and kindness changed countless lives, including mine," Bivens wrote.

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Bivens said his son "changed my life forever" and "you are my reason why."

"My sweet little boy, dada loves you so much! I can't breathe without you here. I finally understood what love was when you were born and I would have done anything for you," Bivens said.

The pitcher also said Joan Bernard was "the best mother-in-law anyone could ask for.” “You loved your family more than anyone I've ever seen," he wrote.

Sheriff’s deputies were called to a home in southern Virginia around 8 a.m. Tuesday after a neighbor reported that they thought someone had been shot and discovered the three victims. An hours-long manhunt was launched, and Bernard, who was naked, was arrested around noon, Sheriff Michael W. Taylor has said.

A criminal complaint says that Bernard punched a neighbor in the arm and then ran, the neighbor heard gunshots at a house next door and found a woman's body in the driveway and the two other bodies inside, The Associated Press reported.

The criminal complaint says that officers found two victims with gunshot wounds to the head and rifle shell casings near all three victims, and a rifle was found in a wooded area behind the house and a sledgehammer with blood on it was found in a garage, according to the news agency.

Bowling Green Hot Rods pitcher Blake Bivens (38) throws pitch during a MiLB game between the Dayton Dragons vs the Bowling Green Hot Rods in 2016.Steve Roberts/Cal Sport Media / AP file

The Montgomery Biscuits and Tampa Bay Rays have expressed their condolences and vowed to support Bivens in any way they can.

The Biscuits said Thursday that a game scheduled for Saturday would be played as part of a double-header on Friday to give team personnel a chance to attend the funeral.

The Bivens and Bernard families said in a statement released by the minor league team earlier Thursday that they appreciate the tremendous support they have received from family, neighbors, the community and beyond.

In Thursday's statement, Bivens thanked his family and friends who have reached out in "this time of sorrow" and thanked both teams for their support.

"I am comforted by all the messages and well wishes," Bivens wrote. "I'm not sure what is next for me, but I do know God has a plan even though I can’t see it."

CORRECTION (Aug. 30, 2019, 9:20 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the age of the suspect, Matthew Bernard. He is 18 years old, not 19.