- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2009

FARMVILLE, Va. | Prosecutors said Monday they had to investigate hundreds of pieces of forensic evidence in their case against an aspiring 20-year-old rapper from California suspected of killing a Virginia pastor and three other people.

Richard Alden Samuel McCroskey III made his first court appearance by video in Prince Edward County and was appointed attorney Cary Bowen, who was not present and said he had not talked to the suspect. A preliminary hearing was set for Jan. 11 because of the amount of evidence discovered.

“We have so much of it, so we need a little longer,” Commonwealth’s Attorney James Ennis said after the hearing. “… The lab doesn’t have a clue what’s coming toward them.”

Mr. McCroskey of Castro Valley, Calif., was an aspiring rapper in the horror-core genre, which sets violent lyrics to hip-hop beats. He is accused of killing Mark Niederbrock, a pastor at a Presbyterian church in central Virginia.

Mr. Niederbrock, 50, and three others were discovered Friday at the home of Longwood University professor Debra Kelley in the college town of Farmville, about 50 miles west of Richmond. Mr. Niederbrock and Mrs. Kelley were separated.

Farmville Police Capt. Wade Stimpson said Mr. McCroskey would be charged in the other killings once the victims’ identities were released. Authorities have also not said how they died.

Police had several run-ins with Mr. McCroskey before he was arrested Saturday at the Richmond airport, waiting for a flight back to California.

Prince Edward County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a suspicious vehicle call and ticketed Mr. McCroskey for driving without a license about 4 a.m. Friday, about 12 hours before the bodies were discovered. Police ordered the car towed because Mr. McCroskey didn’t have a license. Authorities said he was driving Mr. Niederbrock’s car, but it had not been reported stolen.

A tow truck driver who dropped Mr. McCroskey off at a nearby gas station said he wasn’t acting strange.

“I just asked him where he was from and all and he said he was from California. I said, ‘What in the world you doin’ down here?’ He said, ‘My girlfriend lives down here,’ ” said Elton Napier, 52, owner of Napier’s Wrecker Service.

Police also think they came across Mr. McCroskey on Thursday after a West Virginia woman called authorities worried about her daughter, who had been staying at the professor’s house. Mr. McCroskey told officers then that the girls had gone to the movies.

When the West Virginia mother still didn’t hear from her daughter Friday, police went to the home and found the bodies. Friends and online postings show that Emma Niederbrock’s friend Melanie Wells of Berryville, W.Va., was staying with her.

Capt. Stimpson said messages posted online led police to think Mr. McCroskey knew Miss Niederbrock.

On Mr. McCroskey’s MySpace page, someone who goes by Ragdoll, who friends identified as Miss Niederbrock, wrote several messages to Mr. McCroskey. In a post dated Sept. 7, Miss Niederbrock said she was excited for Mr. McCroskey’s visit.

“The next time you check your myspace, YOULL BE AT MY HOUSE!” the post reads.

A friend said Mr. McCroskey, Miss Niederbrock and Miss Wells were brought together by horror-core music.

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