Syko Sam and His Quadruple Murder Spree In Farmville, Virginia

Many people use music as a kind of therapy, whether it be the soulful crooning of a blues singer or maybe the easy melody of a classic rock song. There are some who prefer a much darker form of entertainment, though. Horrorcore, an offshoot of hip-hop, focuses on themes such as murder, cannibalism, sexual assault, and torture. A mainstream example is a group called the “Insane Clown Posse”, but horrorcore still mostly has an underground following and lesser-known acts. These groups perform at events like the 'Strictly for the Wicked festival', which is essentially the horrorcore answer to music festivals like Coachella or Lollapalooza.

Richard McCroskey

Richard McCroskey

Richard ‘Syko Sam’ McCroskey, 20, was a horrorcore enthusiast and aspiring rapper from California. His self-released album, titled ‘I Kill People for Real’, featured a song with the lyrics “Yeah your [sic] gonna die and your body will decay /As I leave you dying in this dark alleyway.” Unfortunately for his four victims, McCroskey took his dark interests from fantasy to reality in September 2009.

Emma Niederbrock

Emma Niederbrock

McCroskey and 16-year old Emma Niederbrock met once in-person through their mutual appreciation of horrorcore and then continued their relationship online. Emma lived in Virginia with her mother Debra, a professor, and her father Mark, a reverend, stayed nearby. Given their careers, Emma’s obsession with the macabre subject matter seemed unusual, but her parents tried to be open-minded. When Emma asked permission for McCroskey to visit before a road trip to Michigan for the ‘Strictly for the Wicked festival’, Emma’s parents allowed him to visit. They figured that closely supervising the situation was the best solution. Besides, Emma’s friend, 18-year old Melanie Wells, would join them, so it wouldn’t be just the couple.

Melanie Wells

Melanie Wells

It is unclear whether Emma realized she wasn’t that interested in McCroskey upon spending more time with him or if she had some sort of gut feeling, but during his visit she began to distance herself from the young man. She and Melanie made a point of closing their ranks and leaving him out. During their time at the festival, McCroskey went through Emma's phone and found some messages that upset him. His anger lasted through the concert and the trip back to Emma’s house.

On September 15th, 2009, the night after the trio returned from their musical adventure, McCroskey’s rage boiled over into incomprehensible violence. Armed with a splitting maul, an axe-like instrument used for chopping wood, he attacked Emma, Melanie, and Emma's mother, Debra, while they slept. After the three murders, McCroskey remained in the house with the decomposing bodies. Friends and family grew concerned when no one heard from Emma, Debra, or Melanie, so Emma's father, Mark, dropped by the house to check on them a couple of days later. He, too, was murdered by McCroseky with the maul.

After his final killing, McCroskey stole Mark’s car and fled to the airport. Those who came in contact with him during this time later recalled that he had a foul, rotten odor. Police officers managed to arrest him before he was able to board a flight back to California after he was found sleeping in baggage claim. In 2010, instead of going to trial, McCroskey accepted a plea agreement and was sentenced to life in prison.


Adam Quirk

Adam Quirk

Adam Quirk is a private investigator, crime blogger, and criminal justice professional with over 15 years of experience in the field.