FARMVILLE, Va. – Prosecutors said Monday they had to investigate hundreds of pieces of forensic evidence in their case against an aspiring 20-year-old rapper from California suspected of killing a Virginia pastor and three other people.
Richard Alden Samuel McCroskey III made his first court appearance by video in Prince Edward County and was appointed attorney Cary Bowen, who was not present and said he had not talked to the suspect. A preliminary hearing was set for Jan. 11 because of the amount of evidence discovered.
"We have so much of it, so we need a little longer," Commonwealth's Attorney James Ennis said after the hearing. "... The lab doesn't have a clue what's coming toward them."
McCroskey, of Castro Valley, Calif., was an aspiring rapper in the horrorcore genre, which sets violent lyrics to hip-hop beats. He is accused of killing Mark Niederbrock, a pastor at a Presbyterian church in central Virginia.
Niederbrock and three others were discovered Friday at the home of Longwood University professor Debra Kelley in the college town of Farmville, about 50 miles west of Richmond. Niederbrock and Kelley were separated.
Farmville Police Capt. Wade Stimpson said McCroskey would be charged in the other killings once the victims' identities were released. Authorities have also not said how they died.
Police had several run-ins with McCroskey before he was arrested Saturday at the Richmond airport, waiting for a flight back to California.
Prince Edward County Sheriff's deputies responded to a suspicious vehicle call and ticketed McCroskey for driving without a license about 4 a.m. Friday, about 12 hours before the bodies were discovered. Police ordered the car towed because McCroskey didn't have a license. Authorities said he was driving Niederbrock's car, but it had not been reported stolen.
A tow truck driver who dropped McCroskey off at a nearby gas station said he wasn't acting strange.
"I just asked him where he was from and all and he said he was from California. I said, 'What in the world you doin' down here?' He said, 'My girlfriend lives down here,"' said Elton Napier, 52, owner of Napier's Wrecker Service.
"He stunk like the devil. I'm gonna tell you the truth, that boy was stinkin'," Napier said.
Police also believe they came across McCroskey on Thursday after a West Virginia woman called authorities worried about her daughter, who had been staying at the professor's house. McCroskey told officers then that the girls had gone to the movies.
When the West Virginia mother still didn't hear from her daughter Friday, police went to the home and found the bodies. Friends and online postings show that Emma Niederbrock's friend Melanie Wells of Berryville, W.Va., was staying with her.
Stimpson said messages posted online led police to believe McCroskey knew Emma Niederbrock.
On McCroskey's MySpace page, someone who goes by Ragdoll, who friends identified as Emma Niederbrock, wrote several messages to McCroskey. In a post dated Sept. 7, Niederbrock said she was excited for McCroskey's visit.
"The next time you check your myspace, YOULL BE AT MY HOUSE!" the post reads.
A friend said McCroskey, Emma Niederbrock and Wells were brought together by horrorcore music.
Andres Shrim, who owns the small, independent horrorcore music label Serial Killin Records in New Mexico and performs under the name SickTanicK, said he saw all three Sept. 12 at an all-day music festival in Southgate, Mich.
Shrim said despite the morbid music he and his friends loved, they were not violent.
"You look at the music we do and it's kind of harsh and somewhat brutal at times, but there's a different side of life that people aren't normally accustomed to, and being an artist, I think it's important to see both sides of life," he said.
Shrim asked others not to judge McCroskey by the lyrics to his songs or his disturbing Web pages. McCroskey began rapping about the thrill of murder, mutilation and death under the name Syko Sam a few months ago.
"This is not something from the Sam I know," he said. "This is not something that I would ever, ever in a million years envision him doing."
A phone message left Sunday at McCroskey's California home was not immediately returned.
Niederbrock and Kelley had been separated for close to a year, but they remained friends and spent time together with Emma, according to church members.
Niederbrock, 50, has led Walker's Presbyterian, a small, 50-member church for the past five years, said elder John Goin.
"A lot of his messages were messages that came from the heart, they weren't from a textbook or scripted," said Goin, who last saw Niederbrock at a church meeting Wednesday night.