• 36°

McCroskey Pleads Guilty

PRINCE EDWARD – Richard Samuel Alden McCroskey III pled guilty Monday to two counts of capital murder and two counts of first degree murder and was given four life terms.

McCroskey, of Castro Valley, California, had been charged in connection with four homicides last September in Farmville.

McCroskey, with the plea, avoids a possible death penalty.

“I met with the families, discussed it as an option, all the families were in agreement-all the victims' families,” Commonwealth's Attorney James R. Ennis said after the proceedings. “So it was with their advice and consent that we entered into the plea agreement. Hopefully, it will bring them some degree of closure.”

Four bodies were discovered at the 505 First Avenue home on Friday, September 18, 2009. The homicide victims were later identified as Debra Sue Kelley, 53, of Farmville; Mark Alan Niederbrock, 50, of Farmville; daughter Emma Niederbrock, 16, of Farmville, and Melanie Grace Wells, 18, of Inwood, West Virginia.

McCroskey, donning bright orange, was in attendance for the brief proceedings. He was asked by presiding Judge Richard Blanton if there were anything he would like to say, but declined to do so.

“He got four life sentences,” Ennis explained. “There is no parole in Virginia so he will spend the rest of his… life in prison.”

Ennis also cited that he would not be eligible for geriatric parole where he could petition the parole board once he reaches a certain age and served a certain portion of his sentence.

That's not available for capital murder conviction.

Ennis, detailing the process, said he wanted to have a “complete factual understanding before we ever even considered any type of guilty plea in this case that didn't involve the imposition of the death penalty. And then once we had that evidence back and we had reviewed it thoroughly, then the subject came up again. I met with the families over a period of five or six weeks to ascertain whether or not they were interested would consent-the pros and cons of going to trial in a case of this magnitude.”

The prosecutor also cited, “…Don't get me wrong, we liked our case.”

“…When a guy comes in and says (he's) guilty of killing four people and sends himself off to prison for four life…terms-says something about the quality of our case,” Ennis said.

He added, “And it really wasn't the case in chief about guilty or not guilty. Where our concerns were is more whether or not the death penalty would be imposed.”

He offered that there is “no such thing as a lock,” not when 12 citizens are going to make the decision, noting that it has got to be a unanimous decision to impose the death penalty.

McCroskey, according to Ennis, pled guilty to first degree murder of Debra Kelley and first degree murder of Emma Niederbrock, capital murder of Melanie Wells, and capital murder of Mark Niederbrock.

“…The fact of the matter is, life without parole is death in prison,” Ennis said.

Ennis commended the Farmville Police Department for their efforts in this case, and the Virginia State Police, and the Division of Forensic Science.

Asked if he sees this as the best outcome to this case, defense Attorney Cary Bowen told The Herald that he did.

“I don't feel proud of it in a way or good about it, but…I think it's an appropriate outcome,” he said.

A statement released by the families of the victims, obtained through the Commonwealth's Attorney's office reads: “We are thankful that the trial of these cases is over and that we may now have some degree of closure. We wish to thank the Farmville Police Department and the Virginia State Police and the other members of law enforcement who worked so diligently to bring this case to a successful conclusion. We also wish to thank everyone for their expressions of support and their many acts of kindness over the past year. We have endured a tragedy of unspeakable proportion. We are relieved that justice has been done. While we will never forget our loved ones or the circumstances of their deaths, we hope to move forward and begin the healing process.”