A pregnant Florida woman and her father are suspected of being murdered by the same man — the woman’s husband — several days apart in what one relative called an “unbelievable” sequence of violence, PEOPLE confirms.
The grisly case, which authorities say involved two shootings, a staged crime scene and an attempted dismemberment, opened on Monday in Hollywood, Florida, when police officers there were called to an alley about a “possible electrocution.”
At the scene, they found the burned body of 68-year-old Roosevelt Bernard partially hidden in foliage.
While police initially thought a downed power line was the source of a fire around Bernard’s remains, subsequent inspection determined an accelerant had been used, leading investigators toward foul play.
Bernard’s death was ruled a homicide, the result of a fatal gunshot below his left ear, and police learned that he was reported missing by his wife on Saturday.
She told authorities that the couple had been planning to attend a family gathering when Cassandritz Blanc — the husband of their 22-year-old daughter, Martine Bernard — arrived at their home unexpectedly, asking to retrieve some of his spouse’s clothing.
Bernard’s wife said she went to take a shower and when she returned, Bernard was gone.
Blanc, however, was still in the house, sitting on the couch with gloves on while the door to an old bedroom for Martine was locked.
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Blanc allegedly said Roosevelt had not returned after going outside to talk to a Hispanic man who had stopped by. But Roosevelt’s wife grew concerned later that day and contacted authorities, who found “faint blood stains” on the door, floor and wall of Martine’s room.
What’s more, surveillance video showed Blanc dragging a large garbage can and then a flash and fire near where Roosevelt’s body was found not far away.
Investigators asked to speak with Blanc and Martine, 20, at the police station — though only Blanc arrived, allegedly explaining that his wife refused to come.
For his part, Blanc said he’d become afraid for his safety because of an “unknown Latin male,” according to police.
Concerned for Martine, authorities began to surveil Blanc at his home in Fort Lauderdale where they observed him in a nearby alley on multiple occasions.
At one point Blanc was seen pushing a green garbage can and then pulled a similar container back toward his apartment building, police said. Thirty minutes later, he allegedly wheeled a handcart with large black garbage bags toward a Dumpster.
Hollywood detectives quickly contacted the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, whose officers detained Blanc on Tuesday and checked the garbage. Inside was Martine’s mutilated body.
Authorities say Blanc admitted to both slayings, detailing the crimes under police questioning.
In an interview with Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood detectives, he allegedly said he drove to Roosevelt’s home last week planning to kill him.
Blanc allegedly described following Roosevelt into Martine’s old bedroom and shooting him first in the neck and then once in the middle of the back when his wife was in the shower. A police report states Blanc fired from behind “because he was not able to look into his [victim’s] eyes.”
Blanc allegedly said he then dumped Roosevelt in the bushes in the nearby alley and lit him on fire, with gasoline and matches, in an attempt to conceal the homicide, according to the report.
Information about a suspected motive in Roosevelt’s death was not immediately available on Thursday, but Blanc said he fatally shot his wife in the head “because she disrespected him,” according to allegations in a Fort Lauderdale police probable cause affidavit obtained by PEOPLE.
Blanc said he killed Martine on June 4 in his second-floor apartment — when she was six-months pregnant — then tried to dismember her body “to make it easier to dispose,” according to authorities.
Unsuccessful, he allegedly stashed her decomposing remains in his apartment for a week before deciding to dump her with some garbage.
Though he has not yet been formally charged, Blanc is suspected of premeditated murder and abuse of a dead human body.
He remains in custody and it was unclear Thursday if he has retained an attorney who could comment on his behalf.
‘A Tragic Ending’
Friends and family of the victims were struck by the improbability of their deaths and the cruelty involved.
“I’m shocked, I am shocked that things like this would happen to the Bernard family,” friend Sydney Johnson told local TV station WSVN. “There’s such a breakdown. I think it’s signs of the time.”
“It was a tragic ending,” Miranda Grossman with the Hollywood Police Department tells PEOPLE.
Joane Bernard, Martine’s sister, reportedly compared the killings to “a freaking movie.”
She told WSVN, “This doesn’t happen in real life.”