A Missouri teacher took her own life and those of her four young children by setting a mattress on fire, just hours after writing online that the children were “sleeping peacefully” in her bed.
Bernadine Pruessner, 38, died in a fire Monday morning at her Ferguson home along with 9-year-old twins Ellie and Ivy, 5-year-old Jackson, and 2-year-old Millie.
Preliminary investigations have revealed this to be a murder-suicide, St. Louis County Police Department spokesperson Sergeant Tracy Panus told DailyMail.com.
“It is believed that Bernadine intentionally set fire to a mattress, as that was the point of origin of the fire,” Panus said. “A note was also left indicating Bernadine’s intentions to take her own life and that of her children.”
Pruessner last posted on Facebook the night of Feb. 19, just hours before the deadly fire, mentioning that his children were “sleeping peacefully in (their) bed.”
Bernadine Pruessner, 38, died in an early morning house fire in Ferguson, Missouri, along with her children: 9-year-old twins Ellie and Ivy, 5-year-old Jackson, and 2½-year-old Jackson. old mili
The St. Louis County Police Department has launched a criminal investigation into the fire, describing it as “suspicious” due to evidence of criminal activity.
A relative described the little brothers as “some of the smartest, brightest kids you could ever have” who were “full of life” just like their mother.
“All my children, sleeping peacefully in my bed,” he wrote. ‘Cuddled together. Knowing that they love them so intensely that they would do absolutely anything for them. “This is my favorite moment.”
A neighbor woke up shortly after 4:30 a.m. and saw flames glowing through his window. He ran and banged on the door to wake the family while his wife called 911.
Other neighbors said they didn’t hear the smoke detectors.
Firefighters from four municipalities were called to fight the fire, which was so powerful that they had to retreat several times.
Finding evidence of criminal activity, the Ferguson Police Department asked the St. Louis County Crimes Against Persons Bureau to take over the investigation.
Twins Ellie and Ivy were in fourth grade at Mason Ridge Elementary School. The Parkway School District notified parents of the “sad news” in a letter.
The district announced that a crisis intervention team would meet with each fourth-grade class “for students to begin processing their feelings.”
The fire also claimed the lives of three family dogs, but about 14 rabbits, three chickens and two cats, which were in a separate part of the property, survived.
A neighbor woke up shortly after 4:30 a.m. Monday and saw flames glowing through his window. He ran and banged on the door while his wife called 911.
Pruessner taught in both Missouri and Illinois. In 2022, she joined Lewis and Clark Community College as a full-time faculty member.
Neighbors said they didn’t hear the smoke detectors after the fire broke out.
Firefighters from four municipalities were called to fight the fire, which was so powerful that they were forced to retreat several times.
Around 14 rabbits, three chickens and two cats survived the fire, as they were in another part of the property.
Dara Ashby, of the Ferguson Animal Coalition, confirmed that some of the animals would be cared for by family members, while others would be rehomed.
Pruessner was a teacher who worked in both Missouri and Illinois.
She received the Missouri Teacher of the Year Award from the American Board for Certification of Teaching Excellence in 2013.
In 2022, Pruessner joined Lewis and Clark Community College as a full-time faculty member after working as an adjunct instructor.
The 38-year-old had teaching certifications in agriculture, elementary education, English language arts, early childhood education, and family and consumer sciences.
Jared Spader, Jackson and Millie’s father, issued a statement along with David Pruessner, Ellie and Ivy’s father.
“What I would like everyone to know about my two wonderful children is that they are the greatest gift a father could ask for,” he said.
‘Jackson was the most amazing older brother, kind, intuitive and gentle. He loved his sisters, the outdoors, sports, art and was always attuned to the needs of others.
“Millie was a fun, charismatic, sweet, kind little sister who brightened every moment of every day for all of us.”
The statement continued: “They were the two most beautiful souls a father could ask for, and they were a gift to our lives in every way.” As parents right now we have to focus on honoring all four beautiful lives and we plan to do it together.”
The heartbroken parents thanked the community for its support, citing the generosity of strangers and loved ones alike. “We will continue to need it,” they wrote.