Serial Killer in Training
Attack typequadruple homicide
Weapon(s)Ball-peen hammer and wood-splitting maul
DeathsMark Neiderbrock (age 50)
Dr. Debra S. Kelley (age 53)
Emma Neiderbrock (age 16)
Melanie Wells (age 18)
PerpetratorRichard Samuel McCroskey (age 20)
The Farmville murders occurred in Farmville, Virginia in September, 2009 – the quadruple bludgeoning homicide of Mark Neiderbrock, his estranged wife Debra S. Kelley, their daughter Emma Neiderbrock and her friend Melanie Wells.
Emma Neiderbrock shared a relationship with Richard McCroskey, a troubled aspiring rapper. Together, Neiderbrock, McCroskey, her mother and father along with friend Wells, had attended a horrorcore concert the week before. When Wells' mother could not locate her daughter, she alerted police, who discovered the murders.
20-year-old McCroskey was subsequently arrested, later convicted of the murders and sentenced to life in prison. He is serving his sentence at Sussex I State Prison in Waverly, Virginia
The murders took place at Debra Kelley's home, where Kelley lived with her daughter Emma Neiderbrock. The bodies were found just after 3:00 p.m. on September 17, 2009, the victims having been bludgeoned to death with a hammer and maul. Three bodies were found in a downstairs bedroom and one in a room upstairs.
Days before the killings Emma Niederbrock and Melanie Wells joined McCroskey in Michigan for a horrorcore concert, the Strictly for the Wicked Festival. According to police, Emma's parents, Debra Kelley and Mark Niederbrock had taken Emma Neiderbrock, Melanie Wells and McCroskey to the concert. Kelley had taken her daughter to the concert hoping to keep an eye on her.
Prince Edwards County Prosecuting Attorney James Ennis said Ennis said McCroskey's anger over his relationship with Emma Neiderbrock, led to the killings. Ennis says McCroskey was angered by some text messages Emma sent while they were in Michigan. They returned to Virginia, and McCroskey became increasingly distraught about the relationship, Ennis said. He had an expectation that he and Emma were seeing each other exclusively and was unhappy with how things were going.
Late in the evening of Sept. 14, 2009, or early the next morning, McCroskey drank beer, smoked marijuana and might have taken painkillers before he attacked the three female victims in the house as they were sleeping, Ennis said. He killed each within a short period of time around 3 a.m. on Sept. 15.
Ennis said that McCroskey first killed Wells, who was on a sofa in a first-floor den, then Kelley in an upstairs room, and finally Emma in her downstairs bedroom. He struck each victim multiple times with the maul. "No one awoke," Ennis said, adding that the victims had no defensive wounds.
Mark Niederbrock arrived at the home Sept. 17 about 5 p.m., and McCroskey attacked him with the maul in a living room, Ennis said. McCroskey later moved Mark Niederbrock’s and Wells’ bodies into Emma’s room, and he attempted to clean up the bloody den, Ennis said.
At some point, McCroskey used a digital camera to record a video of himself, according to Ennis. In the video, he indicated that he knew he had to pay for what he had done and contemplated suicide, Ennis said.
A press release was issued to the public at the time of the murders. An e-mail was sent to Longwood University students. The following Monday, the Attorney General and Farmville County Police Department held a press conference where the bodies were identified.
The four people killed were Mark Neiderbrock; his estranged 53-year-old wife Debra Kelley; their 16-year-old daughter Emma Neiderbrock and her 18-year-old friend Melanie Wells:
- Mark Neiderbrock was a pastor at a Presbyterian church in Hixburg in northern Appomattox County, and father of 16-year-old Emma Neiderbrock. Neiderbrock had been heading Walker's Presbyterian Church for the past six years. Born in Illinois, Neiderbrock was an Eagle Scout and graduate of the University of Illinois. Before he entered the ministry he worked as a graphic designer. Neiderbrock and his wife Debra Kelley had been divorced for about nine months.
- Dr. Debra S. Kelley was a 53-year-old associate professor of sociology and criminal justice studies at Longwood University since 1994 and had started Longwood's chapter of Lambda Alpha Epsilon, a criminal justice fraternity – often having students over for cookouts. She lived with her daughter Emma Neiderbrock at the house in Farmville where the murders occurred. According to Kelley's colleague she was disturbed by her daughter's obsession with horrorcore and they were in counseling.
- Emma Neiderbrock was Mark Neiderbrock's and Debra Kelley's 16-year-old daughter and the girlfriend of Richard McCroskey, the convicted murderer. She had been home-schooled since middle school. She was interested in the occult and macabre music – as well as the Backstreet Boys and soccer. McCroskey and Emma Neiderbrock met about a year before the murders, at a concert near San Diego.
- Melanie Wells was the 18-year-old daughter of Thomas G. Wells Jr. and Kathleen Wells, of Inwood, West Virginia, and Emma Neiderbrock's friend. Wells and her family moved to West Virginia from Louisville, Kentucky, just before Wells was to enter high school. Wells dropped out and was studying for her high school equivalency diploma. She attended Musselman High School. Wells had been staying with Emma Neiderbrock and Emma's mother.
BornRichard Alden Samuel McCroskey III
December 26, 1988 (age 23)
Alias(es)Syko Sam, LiLdEmOnDoG
MotiveAnger towards girlfriend
PenaltyLife in prison
StatusCurrently serving life sentence
OccupationAmateur horrorcore rapper and graphic designer
Richard McCroskey had been a graphic designer and amateur horrorcore rapper and had been living with his father and 21-year-old sister in Castro Valley, California. McCroskey and his sister had been raised in Hayward before moving to Castro Valley. His father, a rock guitarist, introduced him to Insane Clown Posse, Metallica and Primus.
In high school, McCroskey had been teased and bullied because of his weight and red hair. Neighbors described him as a loner. His sister Sarah recalled him as a mild-mannered and kind person who never fought back or defended himself unless provoked. McCroskey's MySpace page featured songs he authored with violent lyrics, dealing with subjects including mutilation, death and the thrill of murder.
McCroskey dropped out of Tennyson High School in Hayward, then attended Hayward High School for a time before dropping out again. About five months prior to the murders, McCroskey had been devastated when his father asked their mother to move out. He was excited for a planned trip to Virginia to see girlfriend Emma Neiderbrock, whom he had dated online for almost a year and spoken with almost daily by phone. He flew to Virginia on September 6.
Investigation, arrest and conviction
Prior to discovering the murders, Melanie Wells' mother had called city police asking them to check on her daughter. Each time Melanie Wells' mother had called the Kelley home and spoken with Richard McCroskey, McCroskey had given her a different story.
When police arrived at the Kelley home, McCroskey answered the door and told police Wells was at the movies with a friend. The police left, and when Melanie Wells' mother called police again they went to the house and discovered the bodies.
By that time, McCloskey had fled, stealing and wrecking Mark Niederbrock's 2000 Honda. Unaware of the murders, a deputy issued him a summons for driving without a license but did not arrest him. Prince Edward Sheriff's Sgt. Stuart Raybold said at the time there was no reason for the deputy to be suspicious. During this time, McCroskey made a call to confess he had just killed the victims.
McCroskey was apprehended at Richmond International Airport on September 18, where police found him sleeping in the baggage claim area, about to fly back to California. McCroskey, who had no prior criminal record, was first charged with first degree murder, robbery and grand larceny (stealing the car), but later was charged with six counts of capital murder. McCroskey was subsequently held in Piedmont Regional jail, on suicide watch.
Police concluded the victims died from blunt force trauma to the head. Police occult expert Don Rimer, brought in because of symbols found in the music the teens listened, described the murder scene as a slaughter house.
McCroskey did not initially cooperate with police after his arrest. When asked about the possible motive, Police Sgt. Andy Ellington from Farmville, VA Ellington said McCroskey said "Jesus told me to do it."
The police took McCroskey's computer, house phones and more than a dozen paper bags full of evidence from his home. McCroskey was charged with six counts of capital murder because he is alleged to have killed multiple people within three years.
On September 20, 2010, McCroskey pleaded guilty to the four murders. Although facing the death penalty, he was sentenced to life in prison. County Attorney James Ennis says that the victim's families supported his decision to reach a plea agreement instead of going to trial and seeking the death penalty.
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