Updated February 23rd, 2024 at 17:35 IST

'Sleeping Peacefully': US Teacher Sets Ablaze Her 4 Children in Jarring Murder-Suicide Case

After a thorough investigation into the Ferguson house fire that killed a family of five, St. Louis County police declared it a case of murder-suicide.

Reported by: Bhagyasree Sengupta
Bernadine “Birdie” Pruessner with her four children | Image:Facebook - Birdie Dorville
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Ferguson – After a thorough investigation into the Ferguson house fire that killed a family of five, St. Louis County police declared it a case of murder-suicide. The teacher named Bernadine “Birdie” Pruessner and her children – twins Ellie and Ivy Pruessner, 9; 5-year-old Jackson Spader; and 2-year-old MIllie Spader all perished after a massive blaze broke out in their home in Ferguson on Monday morning, The New York Post reported. After investigating the matter, the St. Louis County Police on Wednesday confirmed that the fire was a case of murder-suicide. The news came as a shock because, before the incident, Birdie posted multiple cryptic messages on her Facebook profile. 

“It is believed that Bernadine intentionally set a mattress on fire as that was the point of origin for the fire,” the department announced on Wednesday, as per the reports by Fox News. “A note was also left stating Bernadine’s intentions to take her life and the lives of her children,” the statement read, without elaborating on the contents of the note. Hours before the fire broke out, the teacher made multiple cryptic posts on Facebook. In one of the posts, Birdie stated that she is encouraging her children to live every day like it's their last. 

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The posts that came before the fire

At 12:15 pm (local time) on Monday, the Missouri teacher mentioned that her kids were “sleeping peacefully. ”All my kids, peacefully sleeping in my bed. Curled up together. Knowing they are loved so fiercely that I’d do absolutely anything for them. This is my favourite moment," she wrote on Facebook. Shortly before that post, she shared a selfie with her four children. “Us against the world. I’m so blessed to be their mama. They have a heart for the lord and have overcome so much more in their little lives than they should have had to face,” the teacher from Missouri captioned the image. In a different post published on the same day, she mentioned that she is encouraging her children to live “each day as it is their last day”. “Making today one of those live each day like it’s your last kind of days! Breakfast, reptile show, soccer game, and living room camp out on the agenda plus whatever other shenanigans bring us joy. Happy Sunday. Thank God the sun is shining,” Birdie furthered. 

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Pruessner was engaged in multiple custody battles 

According to The New York Post, Pruessner and her ex, David Pruessner, divorced each other in 2017 and were embroiled in a custody battle over her children named Ivy and Ellie. Meanwhile, she was also involved in a custody battle with her ex-boyfriend, Jared Spader, who was the father of Jackson and Millie. “[David and Jared] coordinated their efforts,” Pruessner’s lawyer, Nathan Cohen, told The New York Post. “She saw her children being used by their fathers as foils and she viewed the process and system for resolution of those claims as cumbersome, tedious and never-ending,” the teacher's family said in a statement. “Each day that Birdie would score a step forward, her ex-husband and or her former boyfriend would undertake an action to denigrate or undermine her role as a mother,” the statement further reads. Cohen also noted that Pruessner was earning “less than $60,000 a year” and was struggling to keep up with her legal bills. 

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Published February 23rd, 2024 at 17:35 IST