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Grieving community gathers to honor victims and families affected by triple murder

Prayer vigil held Wednesday evening

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. – Friends and family gathered Wednesday night to pray, grieve and honor the victims of Tuesday's triple murder in Pittsylvania County.

People gathered in the River Church in Danville for a prayer ceremony for the victims, survivors and everyone dealing with this grief.

It lasted about 30 minutes, and the message of the service was "Stronger Together."

Community members commented that though they hear of high profile shootings all the time, they never thought it would be them. Not only that, but the prime suspect is no stranger in this community.

"Where do you go? What's the answer?" said Jackie Poe, senior pastor at the River Church Danville.

The congregation joined the pastor up front for prayer.

"Prayer changes things; prayer helps in a way that other means that we try can only go so far," Poe said.

Blake Bivens, whose wife Emily Bivens and son Cullen Bivens were both killed, all called this church their faith home.

"We all go through battles and struggles and face things like this and have dark seasons, good seasons, bad seasons," said Penny Bartee, a Bivens family friend.

Bartee says coming together with song and praise is a step on the road to healing.

"We're all grieving ... we're in pain, but we're there for one another and that's the most important thing for people to know. That you are there. It's called the ministry of presence, just being there," Bartee said.

The Bernard family will never be the same, after son Matthew 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.

Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor struggling to find words at one points during Wednesday's news conference.

"We're human beings... it's devastating," Taylor said.

The church family says faith will keep the families afloat, and they're including the alleged killer in their prayers.

"We're also praying for Matthew because this young man was reared in church, always involved," Poe said.

Despite all the prayer, many are still struggling with understanding what happened here in this community.

The Sheriff's Office said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon that the motive for these murders is still unclear.


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