After three people were found dead in Keeling, Va., on Tuesday morning, a manhunt for the killer ended with a suspect running naked through the streets and briefly choking a bystander shortly before he was arrested.
The victims were the wife, child and mother-in-law of Blake Bivens, a minor league pitcher with the Tampa Bay Rays organization, ESPN reported. The Rays tweeted in support of Bivens on Tuesday night. “Our hearts are broken for Blake,” the team said.
WDBJ7, a local news outlet, reported that the suspect, Matthew Bernard, 18, was facing three first-degree murder charges, according to the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office.
In a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, 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.
County officials did not immediately identify the victims. But Lou DiBella, the chief executive of the Montgomery Biscuits, the Class AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, said in a statement on Tuesday night that a pitcher on the team, Blake Bivens, had “suffered unimaginable loss.”
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.
County officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday morning.
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