Six months after the bodies of a 38-year-old woman and her three young children were found murdered in their West Brookfield home, authorities have charged a relative with their deaths.
Matthew Locke, 32, of Ware, was arraigned and held without bail on Wednesday on charges that he murdered Sara Bermudez, Madison Bermudez, 8, James Bermudez, 6, and Michael Bermudez, 2.
Locke is a cousin of Bermudez’s husband, Moses Bermudez, and he was charged earlier this year with lying to police investigating the murders.
“This has been a very difficult case for everyone involved,” Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early said during a press conference outside the courthouse, referencing the discovery of the young victims at the scene.
Early asked anyone with information about Locke to contact state or West Brookfield police.
“The investigation is very complex and remains active,” he said.
Here’s what we know about the case so far.
What authorities say happened
West Brookfield police responded to the home at 10 Old Warren Road on March 1 after receiving a 911 call from Carlos Bermudez, who said he found Sara Bermudez and the three children dead inside.
According to The Boston Globe, Carlos Bermudez went to check on his daughter-in-law at his son’s request that afternoon after his son couldn’t reach his wife by phone. Moses Bermudez was out of state at the time, working as a longshoreman in California.
Sara Bermudez and her three children were last seen alive at or near their home on Feb. 28, according to authorities.
“Upon arrival the officers noted the odor of a recent fire and staining on the walls from smoke,” court documents read.
The officers found the stabbed bodies of the mother and her children on the second floor.
Early said that a fire set at the scene had apparently self-extinguished. In March, authorities asked the public to be on the lookout for a discarded yellow fuel can believed to have been taken from the home.
Locke first spoke with police on March 3, telling them he had not visited the Bermudez home for about a month and a half or two months before the killings, according to court documents.
Six days later, investigators lifted a DNA profile from the body of one of the dead children. Locke allowed authorities to take a cheek swab for DNA on March 19, and on the 23rd investigators were informed it was a match for the profile lifted from the Bermudez child.
Prosecutors say when Locke spoke with investigators again on March 23, he again asserted his claim that he hadn’t been to the home on Old Warren Road for more than a month.
According to court documents, investigators learned of a vehicle “associated” with Locke, which is alleged to have been seen leaving his home in Ware on Feb. 28 before the murders occurred and then observed returning after the deaths occurred.
“Witness statements reported that Matthew Locke was not at his residence prior to the homicides occurring, and then returned back to the residence shortly after the murders occurred,” authorities said.
What we know about Matthew Locke
Locke was indicted on four counts of lying to investigators in June, according to the Globe. Authorities alleged the Ware man lied about the nature of his relationship with Sara Bermudez, the last time he was at her home, and fabricated a story about Moses Bermudez indicating that MS-13, a violent street gang, was responsible for the murders of his wife and childrens.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In April, Locke’s mother told the Globe that her son had not lied to authorities and investigators were focusing unfairly on him because of his criminal record.
According to the Globe, Locke’s criminal record in Massachusetts and Maine includes charges for theft, larceny, and receiving stolen property. He moved back to Massachusetts in September 2017 after serving time in Maine for attempting to burn down a mobile home.
Moses Bermudez’s sister, Rachaul, told the Globe that their mother, Anita Bermudez, and Locke’s mother, Marla Lyons, are sisters. She said her cousin struggled with opioid addiction and the older women were working to try and keep him out of trouble.
“My mom was best friends with Matt,” Rachaul Bermudez told the newspaper. “He was always going over there and hanging out with mom. She always said Matt was so quiet. … She was just sitting there, reading a book and he was just looking at his phone. They just sat like buddies.”
According to Boston 25 News, a woman who had a child with Locke took restraining orders out against him twice, alleging that he threatened her life and physically abused her.
A few weeks after the murders, Locke went to offer his condolences to Moses Bermudez, a friend who witnessed the exchange told the Globe. The friend told the newspaper that the 32-year-old cried as he spoke to his bereaved cousin.
An attorney for Locke could not be immediately reached for comment. On Wednesday, Locke pleaded not guilty to the four charges of murder. He is scheduled to return to court on Oct. 18.
How the Bermudez family reacted
Outside the courthouse on Wednesday, Moses Bermudez expressed relief to reporters that someone had been arrested for the murders of his loved ones.
“I think about my wife and kids,” he told CBS Boston. “That’s the most important thing to me. I want justice to be served.”
He said authorities have not shared a motive for the murders with him.
“I just want to know why,” Bermudez said, according to the Globe.
Rachaul Bermudez recalled seeing Locke at her mother’s house after the murders.
“He was so quiet, I just thought it was kind of weird,’’ she said. “It was like somebody with no emotions.”
Moses Bermudez said he understood the speculation that he was somehow involved with the murders, but said he worked with and knew he had to be patient with law enforcement, according to MassLive. On Wednesday, authorities said that while the investigation into the murders is ongoing, they are not looking at the husband and father in connection to the killings.
“I never really thought that anything like this could ever happen to my family for any reason,” he said. “To have this happen, I’m saddened that it’s my own family that happened to be involved with this. I wish that things were different, we all do.”