‘Religious motivation’ a possible factor in Bivens family murders, police say

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Matthew Thomas Bernard puts his hands on Keeling Baptist Church groundskeeper Loyd Gauldin, as a state police officer attempts to take him into custody on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019 in Keeling, Va. The wife, toddler son and mother-in-law of minor league baseball player Blake Bivens have been killed. Bernard, Bivens’ brother-in-law, has been charged with first-degree murder. (Caleb Ayers/Danville Register & Bee via AP)

DANVILLE, Va. (AP) — The Virginia man who police say killed the wife, son and mother-in-law of a minor league baseball pitcher may have operated under some kind of “religious motivation.”

That’s according to a search warrant filed in Pittsylvania County. The Danville Register & Bee reported Friday that police cited the religious aspect while seeking access to Matthew Bernard’s cellphones.

Police said the 18-year-old possibly kept an audio diary on his phone that includes his “visions” and things he had “heard from God.”

Authorities say Bernard killed his sister, Emily Marie Bivens, and her 1-year-old son Cullen Bivens, and his mother, Joan Bernard, in late August.

Emily Bivens was married to Blake Bivens, a pitcher for the Montgomery Biscuits, an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Bernard is charged with first-degree murder.

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