- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2009

FARMVILLE, Va. — Four people found slain in a small Virginia college town were bludgeoned to death, authorities said Tuesday, and the aspiring rapper suspected of killing them befriended two of the victims through a subculture of violent, macabre music.

Richard Alden Samuel McCroskey III, 20, already is charged in the killing of the Rev. Mark Niederbrock, a pastor of a Presbyterian church in central Virginia. He’s expected to face more charges in the future, after investigators sift through hundreds of pieces of forensic evidence.

At a news conference Tuesday, the other victims were identified as Longwood University Professor Debra Kelley, 53; Emma Niederbrock, 16, the daughter of Ms. Kelley and Mr. Niederbrock; and Melanie Wells, 18, of Inwood, W.Va.

The bodies were discovered over the weekend at Ms. Kelley’s home in Farmville, about 50 miles west of Richmond. Ms. Kelley and Mr. Niederbrock had been separated for about a year.

Prince Edward County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Ennis would not reveal what kind of weapon was used, if the victims suffered other injuries or a possible motive. He confirmed that Mr. McCroskey was staying in Ms. Kelley’s home during a visit to Virginia and called the investigation “unparalleled.”

“We are going coast to coast on this investigation,” Mr. Ennis said.

Mr. McCroskey has not cooperated with police since his arrest on Saturday.

Mr. Ennis said there was no indication anyone else was involved and would not say when the victims died.

The girls last logged in to their MySpace pages on Sept. 14. Mr. Niederbrock was last heard from on Thursday, when he told the church treasurer he was going to Richmond for a meeting.

Sarah McCroskey has said her brother — who rapped about killing, maiming and mutilating people under the moniker “Syko Sam” — was a meek and kind person who never fought back when picked on and wouldn’t do anything unless provoked.

“He was extremely passive, so just hearing that my brother is the main suspect just really blows my mind,” she said.

That low-key demeanor was described by police who had two run-ins with him in the days before his arrest Saturday. Authorities said he was calm, never acting in a strange or suspicious manner.

A day before the bodies were found, Mr. McCroskey answered the door at the home and calmly told police looking for Miss Wells that she was at the movies with a friend. Her mother had called city police asking them to check on her daughter.

When the worried mother called police again Friday, they went to the house and discovered the bodies.

Mr. Niederbrock and Ms. Kelley took their daughter and Miss Wells to a concert in Michigan on Sept. 12, and the girls hung out with Mr. McCroskey before and after the show, according to a friend.

In another encounter with police about 12 hours before the bodies were found, he was stopped and ticketed for driving Mr. Niederbrock’s car without a license. The car hadn’t been reported stolen, and police said they didn’t realize until later that day they had let a suspected killer go free.

On Monday, a judge appointed an experienced capital murder defender, Cary Bowen of Richmond, to work with Mr. McCroskey during a brief video conference. Mr. Bowen said later he had not yet spoken with Mr. McCroskey.

The judge set a preliminary hearing for Jan. 11, and Mr. Ennis said prosecutors needed the extra time to look over the evidence.

Police also are examining online postings from Mr. McCroskey, Miss Niederbrock and Miss Wells. In some of the messages, Miss Niederbrock professed her love to Mr. McCroskey.

As deputies escorted Mr. McCroskey to the police station Saturday after his arrest at the Richmond airport, Mr. McCroskey was asked by a reporter why he did it. He said, “Jesus told me to do it,” WRIC television reported.

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