FARMVILLE, Va. — An aspiring California rapper who rhymed about the thrill of killing people in songs on the Internet — and is now suspected in four Virginia slayings — was bullied as a boy and spent much of his time in his room on his computer.
His father played guitar in a band called S&M, and according to the rapper’s sister, they were not a “lovey-dovey ... ‘Leave It To Beaver’ kind of family.” So when 20-year-old Richard Alden Samuel McCroskey III ended a call to the family’s house Thursday by saying “I love you guys,” his older sibling thought something might be wrong.
“It was pretty unusual,” 21-year-old Sarah McCroskey said.
Richard McCroskey, of Castro Valley, Calif., recorded songs in the horrorcore genre, which sets violent lyrics to hip-hop beats. He is accused of killing Mark Niederbrock, a pastor at a small Presbyterian church in central Virginia, and three others whose bodies were discovered over the weekend at the home of Longwood University professor Debra Kelley. Niederbrock and Kelley had been separated for about a year and had a 16-year-old daughter, Emma Niederbrock.
Authorities have not said when the slayings ocurred or how the four were killed.
Sarah McCroskey said her brother 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, Richard McCroskey answered the door at the home and calmly told police looking for a teenager from out of town that she was at the movies with a friend. The teen’s mother, from West Virginia, 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.
Niederbrock and Kelley had taken their daughter and one of her friends, an 18-year-old girl from West Virginia, to a concert in Michigan on Sept. 12, and the girls hung out with Richard McCroskey before and after the show, according to a friend Andres Shirm, who also attended.
In another encounter with police about 12 hours before McCroskey answered the door, he had been stopped and was ticketed for driving 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.
Shirm, who owns a small, independent horrorcore music label called Serial Killin Records in New Mexico, said the girls and McCroskey were brought together by the music.
“You look at the music we do and it’s kind of harsh and somewhat brutal at times, but there’s a different side of life that people aren’t normally accustomed to, and being an artist, I think it’s important to see both sides of life,” he said.
Farmville Police Capt. Wade Stimpson said McCroskey would be charged in the other killings once the identities were verified. Authorities have not said how they died, only that they have hundreds of pieces of forensic evidence.
The bodies were found in Farmville, a small, quiet college town about 50 miles east of Richmond.
On Monday, a judge appointed an experienced capital murder defender, Cary Bowen of Richmond, to work with McCroskey during a brief videoconference. Bowen said later he had not yet spoken to McCroskey.
The judge set a preliminary hearing for Jan. 11, and Prince Edward County Commonwealth’s Attorney James Ennis said prosecutors needed the extra time to look over the evidence.
Police also are examining online postings from McCroskey, Emma Niederbrock and her friend, Melanie Wells of Berryville, W.Va. In some of the messages, Emma Niederbrock professed her love to McCroskey.
In songs posted online, McCroskey performed under the name Syko Sam and rapped about killing, maiming and mutilating people. In one song, he talked about being stopped by the police while on his way to get rid of the bodies of people he has killed.
As deputies escorted McCroskey to the police station Saturday after his arrest at the Richmond airport, McCroskey was asked by a reporter why he did it. He said, “Jesus told me to do it,” WRIC television reported.