Four people found slain in a small Virginia college town were bludgeoned to death, authorities said Tuesday, and the aspiring Castro Valley rapper suspected of killing them befriended two of the victims through a subculture of violent, macabre music.
Richard Alden Samuel McCroskey III, 20, is already charged in the killing of Mark Niederbrock, a pastor at 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.
Some of that evidence was retrieved from McCroskey's home in Castro Valley.
"We are going coast to coast on this investigation," Prince Edward County Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Ennis said.
Alameda County investigators were seen leaving McCroskey's home early Monday with more than a dozen paper bags and as well as a computer. They said they executed a search warrant at 1 a.m. on behalf of their Virginia counterparts.
McCroskey's father was not happy when news crews arrived at the home. He refused to speak on camera, but told a KTVU reporter that he wanted to remind people that his son was "innocent until proven guilty."
Alameda County Sheriff's spokesman J.D. Nelson said McCroskey does not have a criminal history in the county. Nelson said deputies had been to the home "a couple of times" on minor incidents.
McCroskey was arrested Saturday after he was found sleeping in the baggage claim area of the Richmond, Virginia airport. He was about to fly back to the Bay Area. As deputies escorted McCroskey to the police station Saturday, McCroskey was asked by a reporter why he did it. He said, "Jesus told me to do it," WRIC television reported.
At a news conference Tuesday, the other victims were identified as Longwood University professor Debra Kelley, 53; Emma Niederbrock, 16, the daughter of Kelley and Mark Niederbrock; and Melanie Wells, 18, of Inwood, W.Va.
Emma Niederbrock had some kind of romantic relationship with McCroskey after meeting him in Southern California at a concert, according to reports. Police are examining online postings from McCroskey, Emma Niederbrock and Wells. In some of the messages, Emma Niederbrock professed her love to McCroskey.
The bodies were discovered over the weekend at Kelley's home in Farmville, about 50 miles west of Richmond. Debra Kelley and Mark Niederbrock had been separated for about a year.
Ennis would not reveal what kind of weapon was used, if the victims suffered other injuries or a possible motive. He confirmed that McCroskey was staying in Kelley's home during a visit to Virginia and called the investigation "unparalleled."
McCroskey has not cooperated with police since his arrest on Saturday.
Ennis said there was no indication anyone else was involved and would not say when the victims died.
The girls had last logged in to their MySpace pages on Sept. 14. Mark 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, Richard McCroskey answered the door at the home and calmly told police looking for 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.
Niederbrock and Kelley had taken their daughter and Wells 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.
In another encounter with police about 12 hours before the bodies were found, 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.
On Monday, a judge appointed an experienced capital murder defender, Cary Bowen of Richmond, to work with McCroskey during a brief video conference. Bowen said later he had not yet spoken to McCroskey.
The judge set a preliminary hearing for Jan. 11, and Ennis said prosecutors needed the extra time to look over the evidence.
On MySpace, "Syko Sam" was featured rapping to songs about brutally murdering people -- then watching them die.
"You're not the first, just to let you know. I've killed many people and I kill them real slow. It's the best feeling, watching their last breath. Stabbing and stabbing till there's nothing left," McCroskey raps in "My Dark Side," one of the tracks on his page.
Other tracks on McCroskey's page include "Sick in the Brain," "I Hate This World," and "Up in Flames."
He's also shown on his personal Web site laughing at the grave site of a Marine, then rapping about how he "defiled" the soldier's resting place.
Friends of McCroskey's said that his involvement in the "horrorcore" genre didn't mean he committed the crimes.
"You would never, ever imagine that kid even being a suspect," friend Andres Shrim, another horrorcore rapper, said about McCroskey.
"If he is found to be guilty, I would be 100 percent shocked," Shrim said.
"People get the impression we're these twisted, sick individuals and we don't have hearts and we just want to talk about murder and the devil," Shrim said of rappers like himself and McCroskey. "But we just want to express that other side of life."