In a surprise move Monday, Richard McCroskey reached a plea deal admitting to bludgeoning to death four people last year. Because of that, he avoided the death penalty and a judge sentenced him to life in prison. As word spread of McCroskey's plea deal, a sense of relief came over Farmville.
"It's a done deal and that seems perfectly appropriate," said James Kidd.
"It was surprising it took this long took," said Lindsey Steindler.
"I'm sure the families are relieved it's over," said Sarah Reiloy.
McCroskey avoided the death penalty which is upsetting to Pastor Mark Niederbrock's former parishioners. Prosecutor Jim Ennis said he had no doubt McCroskey was guilty, but there was a question as to whether a jury would give a death sentence, a risk he didn't want to take.
After lengthy discussions, Ennis says the victim's families supported a plea.
"It's a guaranteed outcome. Hopefully it can bring some closure to the family. How much I don't know but it won't go on for years in the appellate system with no resolution," said Ennis.
Nearly two weeks ago, McCroskey confessed. He took a wood-splitting maul to Longwood professor Debra Kelley, her estranged husband pastor Mark Niederbrock, their daughter Emma and her friend from West Virginia, Melanie Wells.
McCroskey told police he was angry his relationship with Emma had soured. He confessed to smoking marijuana, drinking beer and taking pain killers for a migraine just hours before his killing spree.
Several flower bouquets have been placed here at the Kelley home on First Avenue. A poignant reminder of the horrific crime that happened here one year ago. McCroskey's attorney says his client is remorseful, but people in Farmville don't believe it.
"I really don't care. It was so horrific I have no ounce of sympathy for him whatever," said Kidd.
"Seeing him getting out with a smirk on his face...how is someone remorseful still smirking," said Reiloy.
McCroskey will soon be transferred from jail to prison. He will likely serve his life sentences at Red Onion State Penitentiary in Wise County.