The Aspiring Death Metal Rapper Who Couldn’t Lose His “Girlfriend”
The story of a gruesome quadruple homicide in a small Virginia town.
On September 15, 2009 at around three o’clock in the morning, Richard Samuel McCroskey murdered three women at a Farmville, Virginia home and later another man. The victims were Melanie Wells (18), Emma Niederbrock (16), Dr. Debra S. Kelley (53), and Mark Niederbrock (50).
Richard Samuel McCroskey was born on December 23, 1988 and grew up in Hayward, California before moving to Castro Valley with his father and sister.
McCroskey was known by everyone in his life to be a meek and insecure kid. He was often bullied for his weight and red hair. According to his sister, she described him as a “mild mannered and kind person who never fought back or defended himself unless provoked”.
McCroskey was also known to have two personas. In person, he was a pushover and a social outcast whereas on the popular social networking site MySpace, McCroskey portrayed himself as a tough, confident, aspiring horrorcore rapper.
Horrorcore is a genre of music that involves hip hop and rap incorporated with dark themes such as death, murder, suicide, and mental illness. McCroskey was an aspiring horrorcore rapper and was a part of Razakel’s promotional team, who was a fellow established rapper in the industry. McCroskey helped Razakel with marketing and web design for her branding. Through doing this, the 20-year-old boy met two other girls through MySpace: 16-year-old Emma Neiderbrock and 18-year-old Melanie Wells.
Emma Niederbrock was known to be a well rounded girl growing up. Aside from participating in the horrorcore community on MySpace, she dabbled in the occult, listened to macabre and The Backstreet Boys, and played soccer.
Melanie Wells was an 18-year-old who lived in Inwood, West Virginia with her parents and had close relationships with both of them. Melanie met Emma and Richard through Razakel on MySpace, but Emma and Melanie soon became inseparable best friends.
Emma was an only child and lived in Farmville, Virginia with her parents Debra Kelley and Mark Niederbrock. Nine months before the murders, Emma’s parents were in the process of divorce, but were still on good terms when it came to coparenting.
Richard began talking to Emma on a regular basis through MySpace direct messaging. In Richard’s eyes, Emma was his online and long-distance girlfriend. However, Emma did not see Richard to be anymore than just one of her close friends. Even being friends, Emma still flirted with Richard and professed her love to him, but she never stated that he was her boyfriend (unlike Richard).
Emma’s parents Debra and Mark were not thrilled about the horrorcore scene as a whole. Debra goes by Dr. Debra S. Kelly, since she had a Doctorate’s degree and worked as a criminology and sociology professor at Longwood University. Meanwhile, Emma’s father Mark was a pastor for a living. So between having a mother educated in criminal justice and a religious father, the estranged couple were extremely concerned by the songs of death and murder their teenage daughter was listening to.
Debra and Mark’s biggest concern with Emma was having an open channel of communication about the music she was listening to and the scene she was involved in, but they ultimately never forbid her from it. Therefore, Emma’s parents were aware of what she was doing online as well as her friendships with Melanie and Richard.
In September 2009, there was a horrorcore music festival being held in Southgate, Michigan called “Strictly For the Wicked” that the three teens/young adults wanted to attend. Debra and Mark agreed to let Melanie and Richard stay at Debra’s house in Farmville, Virginia for the week of the concert as well as accompany them to the event.
On September 12, 2009, Richard flew to Virgina to meet Emma, Melanie, Debra, and Mark in person. As said before, Richard had internally built up a relationship in his head with Emma, but Emma did not see him as any more than a friend. Upon meeting at the airport in Virginia, Emma immediately was not attracted to the guy she has been talking to online for a year, and Richard immediately felt the rejection. But after picking up Richard at the airport, Emma’s parents drove Emma, Melanie, and Richard to the concert in Michigan.
At the concert, a man named Andres Shrim claimed to have seen the three people at the festival that day. To him and his girlfriend Razakel, they seemed safe and Emma’s parents dropped them off and picked them up.
According to Richard at the music festival, Emma wasn’t being “loyal” to him and flirting with other guys and musicians at the concert. Richard became gradually more and more angry with Emma acting this way towards other guys.
The following day on September 13, 2009, the three of them returned home from the concert and continued getting to know each other. Emma and Melanie posted on their MySpace profiles for the last time and Melanie told her parents she would return home to West Virginia on September 16.
On September 16, Melanie never returned home.
When Melanie never came home, Kathleen Wells (her mother) started to call Debra and Emma’s house to see if anyone would pick up. After a few missed called, Richard eventually picked up the phone and told Kathleen that everyone went out to the movies and couldn’t come to the phone.
Despite this reasoning, Melanie still felt unsettled by Richard and the answers he was providing her with. Kathleen Wells started calling Mark Niederbrock and asked him to check on his family and Melanie. Since he was separated from his wife, he lived in a different home.
On September 17, 2009 at around five in the evening, Mark arrived at Emma and Debra’s house to check on everyone there. But several hours later, Kathleen never heard back from Mark. Shortly after she never heard back from Mark, Kathleen started contacting Richard again and encouraged him to call the police.
Richard finally contacted the police and asked them to check the basement of the house. Once the police arrived, they checked the family’s basement but didn’t see anything, so later left unworried.
On the night of the September 17, 2009, Richard stole Mark’s car after Kathleen asked him to come to the house to do a welfare check. On the night of September 14/early morning of September 15, Richard took a wood splitting and bludgeoned Melanie, Emma, and Debra to death in their beds asleep. Then, when Mark arrived to do a welfare check on September 17, Richard snuck up behind Mark with the same weapon and bludgeoned him to death as well.
Before murdering the three women, Richard said he was drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, and taking pills prior to the crimes. He was increasingly more infuriated by Emma’s actions at the music festival.
On the night of September 17, Richard stole money from Mark’s wallet as well as his car, a 2000 Honda. Police pulled Richard over while he was driving the stolen car, but because they didn’t know they were looking for a killer, all they did was give Richard a ticket for driving without a license. He told the police he was simply driving “his girlfriend’s dad’s car”.
After receiving a ticket, Richard got a ride to the Richmond International Airport to get a flight back home to California. But on September 18, 2009, Kathleen continued calling to the Virginia State Police because she still hadn’t heard from Melanie.
At approximately 3:20 P.M., the Virginia State Police entered Emma and Debra’s home and discovered four dead bodies. Three of the bodies were located in a downstairs bedroom while the fourth body was in another bedroom upstairs. All four bodies, according to the police, initially thought they had been bludgeoned to death by either a sledgehammer or a wood splitting maul.
The police recovered at least 98 items from Debra’s home, including multiple pieces of electronic equipment. Some of these items included a computer, a cell phone, and a digital camera. The police later found out Richard used some of these items to document his time alone after the murders and was contemplating suicide.
What was the most concerning aspect of the crime scene? Richard was no where to be found.
After the police discovered the crime scene, they were on the hunt for Richard’s whereabouts. After stealing Mark’s car and getting the ticket, Richard got a ride from a taxi to the airport on the night of September 17.
The name of Richard’s cab driver that night was Curtis Gibson. According to Gibson and other people that came across McCroskey, Richard seemed to be covered in “dirt” (which we later learn is dried up human remains) and smelled wretched to everyone around him.
In other words to describe his scent, Richard sat in the house with the bodies of the victims for at least 2–3 days before going to the airport, and never showered after committing the crimes. But despite his foul odor, Gibson claims that Richard “spoke calmly and never raised his suspicions”.
According to Gibson, Richard said he went to a concert with his “girlfriend Emma” on September 12 in Michigan. Richard’s coverup claims the two had a good time at the concert, but Richard saw a text message on Emma’s phone where she was talking to another guy. The two then got in a fight and that is when Richard “called his cab”. Of course, the cab driver doesn’t know what actually happened and this is Richard’s lies. Gibson also said that Richard gushed and “spoke passionately” about Emma.
After the cab ride, Richard spent the night at the Richmond International Airport to wait to catch a flight home back to California. On the night of September 18, the Virginia police were able to track down Richard based on MySpace photos from his profile that were provided to them through Andres Shrim.
In the early hours of September 19, the Virginia State police located McCroskey at the airport, sleeping in the baggage claim and immediately arrested him. Initially, Richard didn’t cooperate with the police when it came to his motive. He originally said “Jesus told me to do it”.
After his arrest, Richard was indicted with six counts of capital murder. This was due to the fact that in Virginia, if three or more murders are committed in under a year, the defendant is eligible for an extra count(s).
His defense attorney Cary B. Bowen decided not to go through with a trial since it was more likely than not that Richard could receive the death penalty. On September 20, 2010, Richard Samuel McCroskey pled guilty to two counts of first degree murder and two counts of capital murder. He received four life sentences with an additional 632 years in prison.
Pictured above is Richard after his sentencing where everyone claims he remained silent. But when leaving, he showed a slight smirk. He is currently serving his sentence at the Red Onion State Prison in Pound, Virginia.
This case completely shocked the community from the town of Farmville, to Melanie’s town in West Virginia, and to Mark and Debra’s places of work. However, one of the people who was the most affected by the crimes decided to comment, and that was Razakel.
Despite Razakel and her circle of friends bringing Richard, Emma, and Melanie together, the horrorcore artist stated no one in her circle would not be making a song on this incident. Razakel commented:
“People can call it hypocritical, but I call it respect. I’m not going to talk about people I loved like that, it would be disrespectful.”
In regards to someone she saw as an online colleague and friend, Razakel was also shocked Richard committed the crimes he did. She also said:
“This sounds kind of messed up, but to me it makes more sense if some random person would have broken into that house and did all that before it makes sense with Sam. You could push over this kid and walk all over him.”
Razakel overall seemed disconnected from the fact that Richard did everything she did. The only unsettling part of this interview was she also stated:
“We rap about it, and it finally happens. It should be like a slap in our face, right? Well, no. S*** happens.”
Razakel also was able to back up the fact that Richard would always refer to Emma as his girlfriend. However, Emma never told anyone, including Razakel, that Richard was her boyfriend.
This case is unfortunately a huge amount of collateral damage due to a miscommunicated relationship. Richard built up a fantasy of who Emma actually was to him, and when that fantasy wasn’t fulfilled in real life, he snapped.
Richard couldn’t have Emma so no one could have her. But obviously, Emma wasn’t the only person that Richard could kill, making Melanie, Debra, and Mark all victims as well.
Personally, I am a huge fan of true crime and how the minds of the criminals function. But this case makes me unsettled on an entirely new level. The thought of four people being unexpectedly bludgeoned to death to the point where the victims were unrecognizable is utterly sickening.
Even on MySpace in 2009, please be careful about who you decide to meet on the internet.