Ex-Teacher Of The Year Started Fire That Killed Her 4 Kids After Eerie Post

By Jason Hall

February 23, 2024

Photo: Birdie Dorville/Facebook

A former Missouri teacher of the year is suspected to have started the "suspicious" fire that killed her four young children hours after sharing an eerie social media post in what has been ruled as a murder-suicide, the St. Louis County Police Department said via KansasCity.com.

Bernadine 'Birdie' Pruessner, her four young children -- twins Ellie and Ivy Pruessner, 9; Jackson Spader, 5; and Millie Spader, 2 -- and three dogs all died in the fire at their Ferguson home on Monday (February 19).

“It is believed that Bernadine intentionally set a mattress on fire as that was the point of origin for the fire,” the St. Louis County Police Department announced in a statement obtained by KansasCity.com on Wednesday (February 21).

“A note was also left stating Bernadine’s intentions to take her life and the lives of her children,” the statement added, though not elaborating on the contents of the note.

Pruessner, 39, shared a photo of herself and her four children on her Facebook account with the caption, "us against the world," as well as another post in which she claimed she was "making today one of those live each day like it's your last kind of days" hours before the fatal fire.

Making today one of those live each day like it’s your last kind of days! Breakfast, reptile show, soccer game, and...

Posted by Birdie Dorville on Sunday, February 18, 2024

Pruessner was involved in a custody battle with the two fathers of her four children, which her attorney, Nathan Cohen, said was "one of the ugliest custody scenarios" he'd seen in 36 years via KTVI. Cohen claimed that Pruessner "got to that darkness" due to the actions of her ex-husband and ex-boyfriend, both of whom filed a motion preventing her from moving her family closer to the ex-husband.

“Along with those motions, allegations and requests to change or diminish Birdie’s capacity as a woman and as a mother ensued, 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,” Cohen said via KTVI. "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.”

Cohen claimed Pruessner's motive was caused by her ex-husband and her boyfriend, but believes she "made the wrong choice."

“We wish that Birdie would have reached out and received help,” Cohen said via KSDK. “We hope that Birdie’s untimely death can be a reminder that even the strongest of us can use help in moments of crisis.”

Pruessner's ex-husband and ex-boyfirend hadn't publicly commented on the ongoing litigation nor Cohen's allegations, however, Jared Spader, the father of Pruessner's two youngest children, called them "the greatest gift that a father could ever ask for."

“They were the two most beautiful souls that a father could ask for, and they were a gift to our lives in every way,” Spader said via KansasCity.com.

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

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