Last week’s murders of a Longwood University professor, Debra Kelley, her estranged husband, the Rev. Mark Alan Niederbrock, their daughter Emma Niederbrock, and teen friend Melanie Wells of West Virginia sent the small city of Farmville reeling. This was the type of crime seen on America’s Most Wanted or City Confidential. However, it should be one that startles parents into a rather uncomfortable reality as internet usage becomes more and more a part of family life.

The long and short of the story is these 4 people were found murdered. A 20 year old California man was arrested at the Richmond airport, huddled in a corner. The man, Richard Samuel Alden McCroskey III, 20, had met the girls on the internet. They were all into a macabre music scene known as horrorcore genre. The Niederbrock girl was being home schooled and was in counselling. Apparently she was in a stage of bright pink hair, body piercings etc. Her mother drove both girls to Michigan to a concert where the alleged killer was performing his ‘art.’ McCroskey recorded songs that spoke of death, murder and mutilation under the name Syko Sam.

Somehow McCroskey ended up back in farmville after the concert and was staying at the home of  Debra Kelley, a criminology professor. The mother of Melanie Wells made several calls to the Farmville police to find her daughter when phone calls weren’t returned. After several calls and several trips, police discovered the 4 bodies, all dead of blunt force trauma. McCroskey was no longer there.

This horrible story has been shown in bits and pieces on local TV. Print media has given it more coverage. It is a story of a bad music , a troubled kid, internet usage gone awry, and ultimately murder. It should cause us to question many things as we raise our kids: What does one do with an out of control kid? How dangerous is the music our kids listen to and the accompanying ‘scenes’ involved with the music? Do we relate it to our own youth or do we branch out and check things out, as this mother obviously was doing. Do we allow our kids to have internet friends? How much do we snoop?

In many respects, at least surfacely, these parents were doing some of  the right things. A minister, a professional mother, albeit separated, were raising an apparently troubled daughter. She was being homeschooled, yet, she still landed with the wrong crowd and now the entire family and a friend are dead. The mother sought counselling for her child, tried to support her, drove her and a friend to a concert, and chaperoned. 

This story screams something about parenting, yet I am not sure what. What I am sure of is that this story should not be brushed under the rug and dismissed. The ‘my child would never….’, or ‘I would not allow….’ sound bites are easily eaten if it is your kid who has, for whatever reason, gone into dark areas where we do not want them.  This story should become a dinner table topic. 

Additional Information:

Manassas News and Messenger


Suspect arrested in four Farmville slayings

Teen victims were drawn to macabre music

32 Thoughts to “Mayhem in Farmville”

  1. Poor Richard

    Perhaps if your teenager meets a stranger at a horrorcore/
    slashfest event, perhaps inviting him into your home to spend the
    night may not be a good idea. Just saying.

  2. Moon-howler

    Are we sure he was invited?

  3. Punchak

    This was ONE bizarre (sp?) story!

  4. Punchak

    I read the story and the man was indeed invited.

  5. This is the weirdest story ever. I feel horrible for the victims. That said…I would NEVER drive my kid to a kill-fest-concert. There comes a time when you have to say “NO” no matter how much you love or support your children.

    It could be Mom didn’t know enough to take these killer-musicians and internet whackos seriously. Unfortunately, I learned first-hand that there are many who ARE serious, and they are violent. If there is a lesson to be learned in this story it’s this: if it smells like violence, looks like violence and acts like violence, it’s violence.

  6. Moon-howler

    Punchak, now how can that be determined? The police investigation isn’t complete and all those who know first hand how he got there are dead.

    Pinko, one think I learned as a part is to never say never. Maybe the woman didn’t know what kind of festival it was. Maybe she was lied to. While at first glance she sounds like a fruit cake to me, she had a background in criminology and was at least supervising her daughter. I am with you. NO. But I am not going to say never. There are too many missing details.

  7. Moon-howler

    Did you all read the interview with the alleged killer’s sister? She talked about him being a gentle, reclusive young man. Sometimes people aren’t what they seem. Perhaps he put the same persona on for the mother. After all, she was a professor at Longwood, not on Criminal Minds.

  8. MH, you are right about never saying never. I never should have used the word never. You never know what your kids might do.

    I perceive Mom as kind of bookish and naive, even though she was a professor. Just because you are a professor doesn’t mean you know what criminals really ARE like. (When I had my experience, for me, it was just writing. For him, it was real life and he was everything he said he was.)

    However, I would think she might have looked into this guy before she invited him to stay with them. Or, she might have suggested he stay somewhere else. And…why was she setting her 16 year old up with a 20 year old? It might be only a four year difference, but at that age, there’s a huge difference between a teenager and a true young man. I can see if she had taken that chance on herself, but on her kid? I don’t get it.

  9. @Moon-howler
    The sister would have no idea how violent her brother could be, probably because he had never been arrested. However, again the lesson here is those concerts are filled with troubled people. Obviously, his sister wasn’t troubled by groups called “Dismembered Fetus.”

  10. Moon-howler

    I have asked myself the same questions. In one of the articles I read it was reported that the mother lost her tenure after this year. Isn’t that an oxymoron? Something is just not right here. Perhaps she was overly permissive? Perhaps the couple separated because they couldn’t agree on what to do about the kid. Perhaps the mother was naive Nellie. You are right Pinko. Book sense doesn’t necessarily equate to common sense.

    It is a hideous crime, however, and it highlights many family issues that should be discussed. Remember when Tipper Gore was the anti-Christ of music because she wanted recordings standardized and rated like movies? Yea the Gores are just hilarious aren’t they? I commend her efforts. Music can be dangerous to the wrong people. Concerts can be dangerous.

    And the internet is extremely dangerous unless people are extremely cautious. There is not enough parental supervision on the internet.

  11. Rick Bentley

    There are real questions here of parenting in the information age, and how society should react to the ultra-violent games and music that some teens immerse themselves in.

    At heart though the problem here is that the mentally ill walk among us. There’s no way around that. The kid was a time bomb waiting to go off.

  12. Rick Bentley

    People will talk about the music, the parenting, permissiveness, and so on to try to dance around the unpleasant and undeniable fact that there is such a thing as “evil” in this world, not a mystical quality but a condition where a person is so out-of-wack mentally that they hurt others just for the joy of it (or more likely to try to fill some deep-seated psychological hole in themselves). And there are human beings, like this kid, who are better off dead. Had he been strangled at birth, society would be better off.

    I’m 100% pro death penalty in cases like this.

  13. Last Best Hope

    A haunting story and a thought provoking post, M-H. The Internet is a threat to children because it provides strangers with direct access to their inner life, invading the walls we think protect them. Of course if you tell a kid not to listen to a genre of music, it becomes the coolest music on earth for him. The Internet is the real threat. Perhaps there should be a chatting age like there is a drinking age.

  14. @Moon-howler
    MH, I don’t see how she could lose her tenure either unless there was some other issue going on like a disciplinary problem. And yes, movies and video games should be rated. And yes…the internet needs more supervision just as kids do when they are on the internet. The internet needs more law enforcement presence. It’s a “real, virtual world” here in the internet, and it needs to be policed as such.

  15. Rick Bentley

    “And yes, movies and video games should be rated.” Ummm … they are.

  16. I know, Rick. I am saying it was a good decision.

  17. Moon-howler

    And they weren’t rated when Tipper Gore was crusading to have a rating system.

    And Rick, I agree with everything you have said under this post.

    There is just pure evil out there, for whatever reason. How do we protect our kids from it and at the same time allow them to grow up? I have no answers.

  18. IWK Manassas

    This story scares the you know what out of me as a parent. The ultra-violent video games have worried me for years. We don’t have them in our house, but it is inevitable that our kids will see them at some point as their friends may have them in their homes. Just watching NFL games on Sundays is hazardous b/c of the movie trailers (Jennifer’s Body, etc.) shown during commercial time. It shouldn’t be this way and our kids are the ones who will suffer b/c of it. Violent video games, t.v./movies and “horrorcore” music celebrate a death culture and our kids become desensitized to violence. I’m not sure how you keep troubled kids from going down that path. Lots of love and discipline in equal measure, I would guess is the best bet.

  19. Moon-howler

    IWK Manassas,it certainly is scary, for sure. That just isn’t what you expect to happen in a town like Farmville.

  20. Punchak

    #6 MH

    I don’t have any proof – just parroting what I read. You know the old saying :

    “It’s sez here in black and white….”

    Might have been true hundreds of years ago.

  21. Moon-howler

    I want to know what was up with Mrs. Kelley losing her tenure. Isn’t tenure forever, by definition, unless one is found guilty of moral turpitude?

  22. @Moon-howler
    It depends on the school or state or union policy, as far as I know. In some places, I believe you can lose tenure if you fail to continue to meet requirements such as publishing. “Publish or perish” as the saying goes.

  23. Moon-howler

    This is Virginia. Union policy wouldn’t enter in to it I don’t think. Most college professors aren’t union. Usually one is granted tenure after meeting the requirements. There is something here strange. We may never know if it is a personnel matter.

  24. Happy Harry

    Please leave this family alone. As an alumna of Longwood, who KNEW Dr. Kelley, please stop judging her. Leave it alone. The Longwood community is grieving right now and this speculation over whether or not this woman “was a fruit cake” is hurtful. There has been nothing documented that her daughter was “troubled”. Stop jumping to conclusions. Have you ever been to Farmville or Longwood? If you have, you’d know that the community is VERY close knit and something like this is not only shocking, but incredibly heart breaking for those of us that knew her.

    And, BTW, there was an double homicide (ax murder) in Farmville in 2000. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, then don’t post sh*t about it. Leave well enough alone already. Let the community, college and alumnus grieve and stop creating gossip about this woman. If you read a credible post that stated she was losing her tenure after this year, then link it. If you can’t, then stop talking about it.

    Where you this crass when the murders at Tech happened? Or, because you feel Farmville is some little hick community, you can talk like you want to about it and not be sensitive to the needs of others?

    I’m fully expecting you to censor this, since you’ve censored most of my other posts. What you are doing is irresponsible and biased, not to mention incredibly hurtful to a community in pain.

  25. Happy Harry

    Here’s the info – the RTD is about as reliable as the MJM

    “Dr. Kelley joined Longwood in 1994 and taught courses in sociology and criminal justice studies. Dr. Kelley was on paid educational leave for this academic year. In 2002, she earned the Maude Glenn Raiford Teaching Award. Dr. Kelley earned her bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, a master’s degree from American University, and a doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.”

    Nothing about her tenure not being renewed. She is an associate professor, not a full professor. Of course, it’s more sensational to post that she’s a nut case with a troubled kid who has pink hair and tattoos.

  26. Rick Bentley

    People are just trying to understand what happened.

    IMO letting your 16 year-old daughter immerse herself in this music, driving her to Michigan to hear it, and then driving her barely-known “boyfriend” back to your house is bizarre behavior, AND bad parenting.

  27. Moon-howler

    Happy Harry, you are a LIAR. I have not censored most of your posts. However, thanks for the good idea. I will consider it because of your penchant for rudeness and harassment of some of our contributors.

    You use extemely poor judgement in your posts. As stated in the rules here, it might be necessary for us to put all your comments into moderation. In other words, we preview and release if we think you are contributing to the blog.

    I don’t give a rat’s ass where you went to school. Brutal murders were committed that involve bizarre behavior. No one was gossiping. It is national news. And yes, I did read that Ms. Kelley was losing her tenure at the end of the year. And no, I don’t have to document it for you. I said I READ it, not that it was a fact.

  28. The article indicates the daughter was being home schooled and yes, she was troubled but her mother was trying to support her. Her friends said she had gone through some serious changes. It’s no sin to be a troubled child or a troubled adult. It sounds like the family needed intervention and didn’t get what they needed.

  29. ““Debra was keenly aware of the possibilities [of Emma’s lifestyle]—that was her profession—but she wanted to stand by her daughter, to try to show support, to be there with her,“ said Hodgson, who now teaches at Virginia State University.”

    “Kelley, 53, grew up in the Richmond area and was a 1978 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. She obtained her doctorate in sociology in 1993 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    She had been told by Longwood that she would lose her tenured post there after this year.

    Emma was being home-schooled and was seeing a counselor, Hodgson said.”

  30. Rick Bentley

    “It sounds like the family needed intervention and didn’t get what they needed.”

    You’ve crossed the line of sanity, into blaming the victims.

  31. Rick, I mean the Kelley family needed intervention. Clearly their daughter was having problems and they had some problems, too. Intervention = help. Maybe if they had more support, they would not have ended up victims.

  32. Moon-howler

    Sometimes the choices we chose to make make us more likely to be victims. No one is blaming the victim here.

    We are all commenting on the very violent murder of 4 people. There are many facts that just haven’t been released yet. I don’t know if the family needed intervention or not or how random the killings were. Obviously they were not strangers.

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