Syko Sam

Date Published 09.21.09
They shared an interest in the scene, in the hardcore music invoking Satanism and murder, in the skull and scythe aesthetic.  He is a twenty-year-old aspiring horrorcore rapper from California who goes by "Lil Demon Dog" and "Syko Sam."  She was a teenager from small-town Virginia whose parents were divorcing.  She called herself "Ragdoll."  Somehow, amid the determined negativity ("I hate everything and I hate everyone" his page says) they found each other and fell in love.  Last month she posted to his page "i love you more than anything" and said she agreed with the stuff he'd said about how they were soul mates.

The soul mates arranged to meet up in early September.  They would drive together from Virginia to an all day music festival in Michigan (featuring acts like Mental Ward, Dark Half and Soul Stalkaz, to name an ominous few).

Did Syko Sam find the music festival inspiring?  The macabre vibe was certainly his style.  In "My Dark Side," a track on his MySpace page, he raps:

"You're not the first, just to let you know.  I've killed many people, and I kill them real slow.  It's the best feeling, watching their last breath.  Stabbing and stabbing till there's nothing left."

Typical horrorcore lyrics, really, the kind of homicidal bravado that runs through most of the violence-obsessed music, except that within days of returning from the festival Ragdoll, her parents, and her good friend were all dead, and Syko Sam, having just experienced his "best feeling," was on the run.

Richard "Sammy" McCroskey

Syko Sam's real name is Richard Alden Samuel McCroskey III.  The Castro Valley, Ca. native has been described as a loner who listened to loud music and always wore a black hoodie.  He's allegedly a talented graphic designer.  It's unclear when exactly he met Ragdoll, whose real name was Emma Niederbrock.

What is known is that McCroskey flew to Virginia on Sept. 6 and met up with Emma.  They drove, along with Emma's friend from West Virginia, Melanie Wells, and possibly Wells's father, to Michigan for the Sept. 12 "Strictly for the Wicked Festival," an all day horrorcore event.

At some point, probably Sunday or Monday, McCroskey, Emma and Melanie returned to Farmville, Va., the small town about 50 miles west of Richmond where Emma lived with her parents, Debra Kelley, an associate professor of sociology and criminal justice studies at Longwood University, and Mark Niederbrock, a pastor at a Presbyterian church.

The first sign of trouble came when Melanie's parents couldn't reach her.  A flurry of phone calls to acquaintances ensued, and on Thursday the local police were dispatched to the Kelley/Niederbrock house.  McCroskey answered the door and told police that the girls were at the movies.  No alarm bells went off.  A day went by.  Melanie's parents grew worried; they still hadn't heard from her.  The police went again to the house on a welfare check.  This time they smelled something.

Three bodies were found on the floor inside; one was found elsewhere in the house.

Syko Sam was gone.  He'd stolen Mark Niederbrock's car, only to wreck it and flee.  Somehow he found his way to Richmond International Airport, where he tried to find a flight home to California.  He was discovered around 11:25 a.m. Saturday, dozing off in the baggage claim area.  He didn't seem surprised or particularly roused by his arrest.

There's some indication that there might be more to the story than just horror-enthralled rapper gone mad.  Reports say that two of the bodies were in advanced stages of decomposition.  Did McCroskey have a partner at first, one whom he may have violently turned on?  Did he separate his victims and let some live longer?  It appears the murders occurred sometime between Tuesday night and Thursday morning; Mark Niederbrock was last seen Wednesday evening, and by Thursday McCroskey was answering the front door by himself.

Another potentially interesting aspect of this case is McCroskey's nickname, "Lil Demon Dog."  Serial killer David Berkowitz, AKA The Son of Sam, alleged that he was given instructions to kill by a demon who possessed his neighbor's dog.

Syko Sam

In the end, what made Syko Sam snap might not be slasher worship, but the banal problems of young, immature love.  On Sept. 14, shortly after the music festival, his girlfriend Emma, or Ragdoll, previously effusive in her affection and ecstatically anticipating her time with Sam, posted a frown icon on her page to illustrate her mood.

The Feed

RT @emilynussbaum: The artful @hodgman's straightforward case for Hillary:
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Know what he does believe in? PAC $. Took 10K from HRC pac 2006. That means he's in her pocket.#BSLogic
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Good one. Unfortunately Bernie on record as not believing in charity.
@johnlevenstein Thanks for asking, btw. That's the kind of elevated discourse missing lately. A lot of mud slinging. #I'mNotAboveItEither
@johnlevenstein Can't convey it all thru Twitter but yes, she has flaws. Too poll-driven, burned needed bridges, trouble owning mistakes.