SC Man Gets Multiple Life Sentences for Killing Family
ANDERSON, S.C. - Andy Dickson's dying words were words of love as he lay bleeding on the roadside, peering up at the double-barreled shotgun and his teenage son behind the trigger.
Nathan Dickson - just weeks away from his 19th birthday - had just methodically gunned down his younger brother, who pleaded for his life, and two other family members who lay dead inside the family's Easley home.
His father "rolled over and told me, 'I love you,' right before I took my last shot at him," Dickson said in a confession to police hours after the April 2008 killing spree.
In his confession, Dickson said he didn't know why he killed his family but that after he killed his stepmother he "could not stop and ½lcub¾hellip½rcub¾ did not stop until I had shot them all."
It was the only firsthand account that Dickson would offer, even as he stood before a judge Monday and pleaded guilty, receiving four life sentences in exchange for immunity from the specter of the death penalty.
Dickson, now 20, was spared from facing a capital trial in part because of his young age at the time he killed his family, absence of a criminal record and family members' strong opposition to the death penalty, 10th Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams said.
Dickson barely spoke Monday and offered no insight into why he woke up the Saturday morning of April 26, 2008, grabbed a shotgun from the bedroom he shared with his little brother and systematically executed his family.
Killed were his 46-year-old father; his 14-year-old brother, Taylor Dickson; his stepmother, 46-year-old Maritza Hurtado Dickson; and his stepsister, 19-year-old Melissa Jiliam Salazar.
Defense attorneys said in court that Dickson admitted to them the day after that he had killed his family - but as weeks passed the events began being erased from his memory, a coping mechanism that a mental health expert testified Monday was a case of "dissociative amnesia."
Adams said she also believes Dickson doesn't remember what happened and that the only explanation is that he "snapped."
Rejection by Marines@
"Thank you for accepting my plea, and I apologize to the families for what they're going through," Dickson told Circuit Judge Cordell Maddox in the only words he spoke other than "no, sir" and "yes, sir."
Two weeks before the killings, Dickson, a Wren High School graduate, had been kicked out of a friend's apartment for stealing his credit card and moved in with the family at their home on 153 Pine Lake Drive in Easley, Adams said.
At the same time, Dickson had been pining over an ex-girlfriend who had broken up with him and was reeling after failing an entrance exam into the Marine Corps, Adams said.
Court records show Dickson's girlfriend had sought a protective order against him.
Taylor Dickson was an accomplished baseball player and student at Wren Middle School, and Salazar was a Tri-County Tech student with an eye toward pursuing a veterinary degree.
Maritza Dickson taught ESL students at Cherrydale Elementary in Greenville. Andy Dickson was a Vulcan Construction employee and helped coach Taylor's baseball team.
After receiving a harrowing 911 call from Andy Dickson, police arrived to find the four dead, a shotgun discarded in the woods and no answers as to why they had been killed, Adams said.
The morning of the shooting, Nadine Salazar - who was Jiliam's sister and Maritza's daughter and who spoke in court Monday - was at flight school in Florida and wasn't at home with the rest of the family.
Authorities turned their attention to Nathan Dickson, who after he shot his family went riding on four-wheel ATVs with a friend, Adams said.
The rest of the story was told Monday in Dickson's own words when his confession was read in court.
In his confession, Dickson said he had come home at 2 a.m. the morning of the shooting spree after riding four-wheelers with his friend in Belton, and his father was upset.
Dickson awoke, and his father and brother were gone. He assumed they were taking trash to the landfill, as his father did every Saturday morning.
"I looked for some of my clothes in Taylor's closet and saw Taylor's gun in the corner," Dickson told police. I grabbed the 12-gauge. Taylor shoots squirrel with that gun."
Dickson loaded a buckshot round from Taylor's dresser and walked down the hall to a middle bedroom where Jiliam was talking with her mother on the foot of her mother's bed.
Dickson said he then shot his stepmother and went to his brother's room to load the last live round as Jiliam ran away screaming.
Dickson said he walked into the kitchen and shot Jiliam as she stood in the laundry room. Taylor walked into the kitchen and yelled for Dickson to stop, just before Dickson shot her, he told police.
Dickson then heard his father pull into the driveway and saw him walking up an embankment to the backyard pool. Dickson said he fired a shot at his father, not knowing if he hit him, then his father ran toward the street.
He said he shot Taylor along the walkway as he went out of the front door. He then shot his father again.
Dickson's father began crawling down a hill. Dickson went back inside for more ammunition.
As Dickson walked through the living room to go back outside, he saw Taylor lying in a chair and shot him again.
His father was lying near the street. "He rolled over and told me, 'I love you,' right before I took my last shot at him."
He said he threw the gun into the woods and left to meet a friend, with whom he spent the afternoon riding four-wheelers. After riding, the two rode to a grocery store to get steaks. When they arrived back at his friend's home, the police were waiting.
"I don't know why I killed all of my family today," Dickson told police. "Once I loaded that shotgun and shot Maritza, I could not stop, and I did not stop until I had shot them all. It hurts inside, and I really can't believe it is real."
Dickson then told police he was concerned how his actions might affect his chances of joining the Marines.
In court, the judge said Dickson's remarks about the Marines made him question whether Dickson wasn't insane at the time of the killings.
The judge told Dickson that he often wonders whether true evil exists and that he believes most defendants are good people who make bad decisions.
However, the judge said he believes Dickson is a "bad person who did a horrible thing" and hoped he could find a way to make something good out of his life in prison. The judge said he was concerned that Dickson couldn't explain why he killed his family.
Nadine Salazar stood before the judge to speak and addressed her comments to Dickson, who stared down as she spoke.
Salazar told Dickson that he took her mother and her best friend and that she wants him to remember what he did.
Dickson's uncle, John Dickson, stood before the judge and spoke to Dickson and said the family loves him and forgives him but doesn't forget.