Rick McCoy was 10 years old the first time violence struck close to home. His brother Haven, 22, was shot and killed outside a truck stop on Dec. 22, 1967, and shortly afterward, his mother said, Rick began to talk about being a policeman.
Anthony Loicano knew violence and then left it behind, quitting the New Orleans police force after 10 years to go into the restaurant business.
Their ambitions were different, but their paths eventually brought both men to the Roanoke Valley west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. McCoy joined the state police here in 1979; the next year, Loicano became director of operations for a local pizza restaurant franchise and moved his family onto a swatch of mountainside overlooking Salem.
Early Friday morning, violence caught up with both of them. McCoy, Loicano and his wife Christine were killed by two migrant workers who apparently chose their victims at random in a brutal spree of slayings.
The men -- an illegal alien from Jamaica wanted for murder in Pennsylvania and a Haitian-born drifter from the Gettysburg area -- shot McCoy when he stopped them for driving erratically, then fled a half-mile through woods to the Loicanos' house, where they shot and stabbed Anthony Loicano and abducted his wife in the family's van.
Finally, for no motive that police have been able to determine, the two shot Christine Loicano, swerved off the interstate, tipping the van, and fatally shot themselves.
McCoy and the Loicanos did not know each other, but there were many people in this town who knew them both and now are mourning their deaths.
Sheril Whiteside, evening manager of a Texaco station off I-81, knew McCoy as a regular customer and, until she moved two months ago, lived next-door to the Loicanos.
McCoy, a soft-spoken trooper with a quiet way of kidding around, "was known by everyone around here; everyone liked him," Whiteside said. The Loicanos were open, helpful neighbors who quickly became her friends, she said.
"They said they loved it up here. I remember Tony saying he thought it was a nice place to raise children."
Family and colleagues said it was Anthony Loicano's ambition that made him leave police work in his native New Orleans for the brisk business of restaurant management, a career that took him to Wichita, Kan., to Atlanta and finally to Roanoke County.
Anthony Loicano Sr. said in a telephone interview from his New Orleans home that his son's thirst for business led him to work first for Pizza Hut restaurants in New Orleans, then for Pizza Inn in Wichita and Atlanta.
"He was always trying to get ahead as much as he could," the father said.
Loicano joined Northeast Restaurants Inc., which operates 12 Pizza Inns in Southwest Virginia, in 1980 and became president of the corporation several years later. Wade Kingston, supervisor for Northeast, described Loicano as a "hands-on" manager who knew most of his 250 employes by name and who was "fascinated by the restaurant business. He read everything he could get his hands on, all the trade publications.
"His one ambition was to make us the best. He said that all the time."
Christine was Anthony Loicano's second wife; they had two sons, aged 7 and 8, who were home during the attack but were unharmed.
Neighbors and friends described the four as a lively, devoted family, who enjoyed each other's company and kept busy sprucing up the nine acres of woodsy mountainside they owned.
"He loved the area around here," said Frank Wade, the Loicanos' next-door neighbor. "He had a little tractor, a trailer, a chain saw. He used to putter around, clearing the underbrush."
"You wouldn't have known he was the owner of Pizza Inns," said Whiteside. "In the summer, he'd be out in shorts and no shirt on, riding on the tractor . . . . She'd hop on the tractor every week and ride past my house; she'd holler, 'You have any trash?' and she'd take it down the road in a little trailer."
Friends remembered Christine Loicano's devotion to her sons and her unflagging sense of humor.
When Anthony occasionally let his management technique lapse into bossiness, Kingston said, Christine "would just make a joke. It would just roll off her back . . . . She was always in a good mood."
While the Loicanos were popular newcomers to the area, McCoy was a native of nearby Pulaski County, about 35 miles from Salem. He graduated from the police academy in 1979 and became a state trooper six months later, at the age of 22.
"When he came here, of course, he was young. The older men really looked at him as kind of a younger brother," said Sgt. Larry McMahon, McCoy's supervisor. McMahon said he watched McCoy grow from a shy, eager rookie to a quiet, dedicated trooper known for his habit of talking with his hands.
"I'd say, 'Rick, where are you going?' and he'd say, 'Up on the interstate,' " McMahon said, imitating how McCoy would rotate an imaginary steering wheel in the air.
It was McMahon who introduced McCoy to the woman he married in April. "We all saw him fall in love with Jenny," an elementary school special education teacher, McMahon said.
McCoy, with his quiet manner and small stature -- he stood about 5 feet 6 -- cut an improbable figure for a state trooper.
"You couldn't really picture him a cop; you couldn't picture him raising his voice at you," said Kenneth Rock, night manager at the Texaco station.
But according to his mother, McCoy never seriously thought of being anything else.
When he began talking excitedly about police work, Annie McCoy said, "We didn't much want him to do it. We told him, 'Well, that's your choice, but it's a dangerous job.' He said, 'I know, but that's what I want to do.' "
After he married and settled in Salem, Annie McCoy said, her son visited home often, to bring her newspapers or do work in the yard. "He always talked about the work; he'd tell us how many tickets he wrote," she said. "He liked it just fine."
McMahon said McCoy knew that police work meant brushing close to danger and that he tried to protect himself.
"When my phone rang at 3:50 yesterday morning and all the dispatcher said was, 'Larry, Rick's been shot,' I told my wife, 'Rick's been shot, but he always wears his safety vest.'
"We don't sit around and talk about being hurt or being killed," McMahon said. "But we're all . . . cautious. He was out there where he was supposed to be, doing what he was supposed to be doing, and he lost his life."
Authorities investigating the murders could add few new details about the two gunmen, Denziel Nathaniel Malcolm, 33, and Willie Anderson, 23, or their motives.
Malcolm, a Jamaican-born illegal immigrant, was known to police in Harrisburg, Pa. because of several warrants against him -- the most recent being for the Dec. 28 murder of his estranged girlfriend -- but Anderson had no criminal record in Harrisburg, according to Sgt. Michael DeFrank.
As for the Loicanos, said friends and family, their lives in Roanoke Valley seemed remote from serious risk.
"I'll never forget one thing Christine said," recalled Rock. "She said she moved up on that mountain for quiet and peace, to raise her children."