Man charged with Pittsylvania County triple murder to undergo mental evaluation

Charged with first-degree murder


On Thursday morning, 18-year-old Matthew Bernard appeared in public for the first time since last month's killing spree of his Pittsylvania County family, which police say he's involved with.

Bernard was arraigned Thursday in juvenile and domestic court, and 10 News learned he may not be fit to stand trial. He is being charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. 

Bernard appeared in court wearing a green jacket with handcuffs around his wrists and ankles.

This arraignment had been delayed multiple times. 

The hearing only lasted a few minutes, and Bernard didn't say much answering only "yes, sir," to the judge.

His lawyer says he wants a mental examination to see if he's fit to stand trial, and the Commonwealth agreed to it. Bernard is also looking at a possible insanity plea, according to court documents.

Bernard is being held away from the primary jail in Chatham. Police took him away after the hearing, and the Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Office purposefully put a sheet inside the door of the police car, covering Bernard's face to shield him from our camera's view.

Bernard is accused of murdering his mom, his sister and his sister's baby son. He led police on a wild chase through rural Pittslyvania County when he now famously attacked a bystander naked while running from the police.

Bernard's family has told us that he was hearing voices and seeing "demons around his bed in the days leading up the killings." Police have remained tight-lipped on that subject.

Bernard's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 6. 

Although he is legally an adult, it appears the case, for the time being, will stay in juvenile and domestic court. It's unclear if cameras will ever be allowed in.


The arraignment for a man accused of brutally killing his mother, sister and her young son a few weeks ago in Pittsylvania County is set for Thursday morning. 

19-year-old Matthew Bernard's first court appearance was pushed back because he was in the hospital. His second arraignment was rescheduled for unknown reasons. He is expected to be in court at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. 

Bernard is accused of killing his mother, 62-year-old Joan Bernard; his sister, 25-year-old Emily Bivens; and his 14-month-old nephew, Cullen Bivens, who all lived at 1949 Keeling Drive. 

Credit: Bryant Bernard

The Sheriff's Office says a motive is unclear, but Matthew Bernard's uncle, Bryant Bernard, told 10 News there were signs leading up to this incident.

"He expressed to his mother last week that he was having bad dreams, and that he'd seen demons around his bed," Bryant Bernard said about his nephew.

Credit: Chatham Star-Tribune

"He woke up, he said something to his mother that something's going on and 'it has to stop today' and he left. They never saw him again until the point of where (his mom) got back home and that's where she confronted him."

Joan Bernard was found in the driveway, according to the Sheriff's Office.


About the Authors:

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a content producer in July 2018.