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.