Farmville no stranger to grisly crimes
Media General News Service
Published: October 5, 2009
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FARMVILLE—The initial shock of last month’s quadruple homicide has begun to fade for some town residents, allowing them to step back and examine the impact of a baffling crime.
Some Farmville residents have lost sleep thinking about the bludgeoning deaths of Longwood University professor Debra S. Kelley; her estranged husband, Mark Niederbrock; their daughter, Emma Niederbrock; and her friend Melanie Wells, who was visiting from West Virginia. Police found the bodies Sept. 18 in the home that Kelley and Emma shared near the Longwood campus.
Residents say the killings have marred the town’s peaceful image, but Farmville is no stranger to grisly or bizarre crimes.
Nine years ago, a town police officer stopped a man in a car who had blood on his hands and an ax on his front seat. He was convicted of killing his ex-wife and her mother outside the town limits. The two women ran a vintage-clothing store on Main Street in Farmville.
Then, in 2001, a psychiatrist killed his wife in their Farmville home and then shot himself while on a deer stand. Authorities found him hanging from a rope tied to a tree.
But the scale of last month’s crime—four victims killed in one home—had not been seen in central Virginia since the murders of the Harvey and Tucker-Baskerville families in their Richmond homes by two men in early 2006.
Prosecutors who handled those killings in Richmond say they can identify with how consuming such a case can be for the law-enforcement officials involved, and the toll it can take on them.
Richmond Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Learned Barry, who helped prosecute the Harvey and Tucker-Baskerville killings, said those cases came to mind when he heard about the Farmville quadruple homicide.
“I just thought for a very peaceful, pleasant community, that’s a huge number of people to be killed in one place at one time,“ Barry said. “It really struck me: nice people being killed. That’s not normal for Farmville.“
Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring, who also was involved in the Richmond prosecutions, said he believes it will take the town a long time to come to terms with the losses.
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On the night after police discovered the Farmville victims, Town Manager Gerald J. Spates stood outside the Kelley home on First Avenue.
“It’s tough on the officers that worked the crime scene, because I’m sure it was very tragic,“ Spates said. “I had one tell me that he wouldn’t want to go back up there again.“
Spates and Mayor Sydnor C. Newman Jr. praised the handling of the case by the Farmville Police Department led by acting chief Wade Stimpson, who assumed that position after Police Chief Stuart Dunnavant retired in May, citing health problems.
Newman said talk of the killings has quieted down, although he noted that residents have been driving by the Kelley house to gawk.
Farmville native Betty Eike said the community still wants answers about what motivated the killings.
The day after the bodies were discovered in Farmville, suspect Richard Samuel Alden McCroskey III, 20, of California was arrested at Richmond International Airport while awaiting a trip back to California. He had met Emma Niederbrock through their mutual interest in horrorcore, a form of rap music that is replete with violent lyrics and was little-known in Farmville or beyond until after the crime.
So far, McCroskey has been charged only with the death of Mark Niederbrock, although Farmville authorities said they expect to file additional homicide charges. Authorities say the suspect is not cooperating.
Police have not named the weapon used in the killings, and they haven’t said when the victims died. Police have said the killings might have occurred on different days.
Eike, who lives a few blocks from the Kelley home, said she couldn’t read news accounts or watch them on TV before bedtime because they would cause her to wake up and think about the killings. The Longwood employee said several of her colleagues have said the same thing.
The killings also prompted several old high school friends who have moved away from Farmville to write and call her to express support and see how she was doing.
“It’s been so overwhelming for people that I think they’ve been reaching out more and more,“ Eike said.
Melissa Seamster, who runs the Sunnyside Farms fruit and vegetable stand in town, said many residents have remarked that the killings taught them that horrible things can happen even in Farmville, and that parents should caution their children about meeting people online.
Dale Lee, 60, who lives a block from the Kelley home, said the killings were especially tragic because they took the lives of two teenagers.
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