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Family of Minor League Pitcher With Tampa Bay Rays Is Killed

A brother-in-law of a minor league baseball player killed three of their relatives in Keeling, Va., on Tuesday, setting off a manhunt that ended when the suspect ran naked through the streets before he was arrested, according to the authorities and court records.

The victims were the wife, child and mother-in-law of Blake Bivens, a 24-year-old pitcher with the Tampa Bay Rays organization, according to the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office. The Rays tweeted in support of Mr. Bivens on Tuesday night. “Our hearts are broken for Blake,” the team said.

We’re with you, Blake. pic.twitter.com/gJqdUCIf7p

— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 28, 2019

The suspect, Matthew Bernard, 18, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder, the sheriff’s office said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

The state medical examiner’s officer in Roanoke confirmed the victims were Emily Marie Bivens; her son Cullen Bivens; and her mother, Joan Bernard Mr. Bernard, the suspect, is the brother of Ms. Bivens, according to warrants obtained from Pittsylvania County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court by The Chatham Star-Tribune.

Officials said that they were still trying to determine a motive and that autopsy results would not be available for several days.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Sheriff Mike Taylor of Pittsylvania County said his office received a call around 8 a.m. from a person who believed that someone in the neighborhood had been shot.

“Officers responded and they did find, in the driveway of a home, a deceased female,” Sheriff Taylor said. “We determined that there are three victims in this case: one child and two adult females.”

On Tuesday morning, public safety officials warned Keeling residents to be on the lookout for a man they identified as Matthew Bernard. “He is armed with a rifle and considered very dangerous,” Pittsylvania County’s public safety department said on Facebook.

Sheriff Taylor said that local schools were temporarily locked down and about 100 officers from multiple agencies responded on Tuesday. The arrest took place around noon.

Lou DiBella, the chief executive of the Montgomery Biscuits, the Class AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, said in a statement that a pitcher on the team, Mr. Bivens, had “suffered unimaginable loss.”

Our Baseball Life, a resource for baseball families, said that Ms. Bivens had designed the first item sold in its shop. “She was always looking for ways to serve our community,” the organization said in a statement.

WSET, a local news outlet, captured the end of the manhunt on video. The suspect could be seen running naked in a residential area, sometimes toward law enforcement officials, who appeared to try to subdue him with pepper spray, and sometimes away from them.

At one point, he could be seen running into the parking lot of the Keeling Baptist Church and trying to choke a bystander.

The bystander, Loyd Gauldin, 75, said in an interview on Wednesday that he is a member of the church and a groundskeeper there. On Tuesday afternoon, he was keeping the building open so law enforcement officials could have access to it.

He said his wife had called to tell him that a man was running around the neighborhood with no clothes on. Mr. Gauldin said he was trying to get in his car to get away when, suddenly, he saw the naked young man running toward him. Then the man’s hands were on Mr. Gauldin’s neck.

“I said, ‘Oh, Lord, what have I gotten myself into?’” Mr. Gauldin said. “Just get me out.”

Mr. Gauldin said he was not injured, though some of the pepper spray that officials had used on the suspect was transferred onto him during the tussle.

After a law enforcement officer intervened with a baton, the suspect fled to the edge of a wooded area, where officials eventually surrounded him.

Heather Murphy contributed reporting.

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SOURCE : https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/28/sports/blake-bivens-family-killed.html

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