Nathaniel Dickson was eighteen years old when he murdered his entire family in South Carolina. According to court documents Nathaniel Dickson was kicked out of his apartment for stealing from his roommate, his girlfriend broke up with him and he failed to qualify for the Marines when he moved back home. Soon tensions in the house increased and on the day of the murders Nathaniel Dickson would shoot and kill his father, stepmother, stepsister and brother. This teen killer was soon arrested and would be quickly convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole
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Nathan Dickson hung his head, barely looking at Judge Cordell Maddox as he admitted gunning down four members of his family more than a year ago without any real motive.
Dickson pleaded guilty today and was sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility for parole, for the deaths of his father, Andy Dickson; his 14-year-old brother, Taylor; his stepsister, Jiliam Salazar; and his stepmother, Maritza Hurtado Dickson.
“In my nine years, this is the most unexplainable and despicable things I have ever seen in my courtroom,” Maddox said, looking at Dickson. “Your brother and your stepsister ? their unlimited potential is gone and wasted.”
“It bothers me that you can’t even tell me why.”
Dickson, who is 20, remained silent as his uncle and another stepsister stood in court, tears in their eyes. He did not move, holding his hands in front of him, as his mother, Patricia Dickson, sobbed in the courtroom.
“Thank you for accepting my plea, and I apologize to the families,” Dickson said.
Tenth Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams said the Dickson and Hurtado families both argued against pushing for the death penalty in the case. She said the families thought a lifelong jail sentence would be more of a punishment to Dixon than even a death sentence.
“I want him to remember his little brother, his father ? I want him to remember,” said Nadine Salazar, as she stared at her stepbrother.
The hearing was the end to a case that began April 26, 2008, and according to prosecutors, defense attorneys and investigators was unusual because of Dickson’s apparent lack of motive.
Adams said there were some incidents in the weeks before the slayings that hinted at trouble.
Dickson had been kicked out of an apartment in Anderson for stealing a roommate’s credit card. His girlfriend had broken up with him. When he tried to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps, he scored too low on the entrance exam to get in ? something he later lied about to friends. He stole about $600 in change from his father.
And there was tension in his parents’ home when he moved back in and wasn’t working.
“Nothing really rises to the level of explaining why this happened that day,” Adams said. “This was a family that loved each other.”
Even in his confession to police in the hours after the slayings, Dickson did not explain why he shot his family.
“I don’t know why I killed my family today,” Dickson said in the statement. “Once I loaded that shotgun and shot Maritza, I could not stop and I did not stop until I shot them all. It hurts inside and I really can’t believe it’s real. I am concerned how all of this may affect my enlistment in the Marine Corps. I am sorry for all the trouble I have caused. It just hurts inside.”
In the statement, which the solicitor read at the hearing, Dickson said he and his father had a disagreement around 2 a.m. that Saturday, because he had come in too late. After a “fitful” night of sleep, Dickson woke, went to his brother’s closet for some clothes and found a 12-gauge shotgun his brother used to hunt squirrels.
Dickson picked up the gun, loaded it and found his stepmother and fired one round, killing her. As his stepsister ran to the kitchen, he followed her and shot her in the laundry room.
Then he found Taylor, yelling at him to stop. Dickson described knocking his brother out, only to come back later and shoot him in the head as Taylor cried for help.
In all, he reloaded the shotgun five times.
Dickson stalked his father, shooting him several times. He struck his final blow as his father called 911 for help. In his statement, Dickson said his father “rolled over and told me ?I love you’ before I took my last shot at him.”
Dickson then left the house and drove to Belton where he spent the day riding four-wheelers with a friend, never mentioning what had happened in his home just hours before. Officers later tested Dickson and he was given a mental evaluation.
What authorities ? including Dickson’s attorneys, Kurt Tavernier and Andy Potter ? found was that Dickson was not drunk nor was he under the influence of any drug when he shot his family. A Greenville psychiatrist, Robert Richards, testified for the defense. He said he could not find evidence of a mental illness that would give attorneys grounds for an insanity defense.
“This kicks at your gut because this was a good family,” Tavernier said. “Nathan was a good kid and we don’t know what made him snap.”
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A US man has confessed to stalking and methodically murdering four family members in their home, reloading his shotgun five times before firing the final shot into his father as the man said: “I love you.”
Nathan Dickson, 20, pleaded guilty to four counts of murder as part of a deal that will allow him to avoid the death penalty. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Dickson did not say why he killed his father, stepmother, stepsister and younger brother at their home in Easley, South Carolina, in April last year and prosecutor Chrissy Adams said the motive might never be known.
Defence lawyer Kurt Tavernier said not being able to work out why he killed his family gnawed at Dickson every day.
Adams read Dickson’s confession in court. He had been arrested hours after the killings – spending the time before police found him riding four-wheelers with a friend.
Dickson said he woke up that Saturday morning and saw a shotgun while looking for some of his clothes in his 14-year-old brother’s closet. The killing began when he shot his stepmother, Maritza Dickson, 41, while she was in bed talking to her daughter.
Dickson’s stepsister, Jiliam Salazar, 19, was killed after running into the kitchen screaming.
He punched his brother, Taylor, in the head when he yelled at Dickson to stop, and shot him.
Dickson then went to father’s bedroom to get more ammunition and shot his brother again.
The second shot went into Taylor’s head as he was sprawled across a chair crying for help, according to the confession.
Dickson’s father was out of the house when the killings began. Dickson said he shot him first in their back yard, then, after going to the bedroom to get another shell, shot him again at the edge of the front yard.
After firing the last shot at his brother and getting one final shell, Dickson said he went to the front yard and confronted his father, who had called police.
“He rolled over and told me, ‘I love you’ right before I took my last shot at him,” Dickson wrote in his confession, adding he then slammed the stock of the shotgun into his father’s head like a club because he was still breathing.
Adams said she decided not to pursue the death penalty because the victims’ relatives were strongly opposed to it, and because Dickson had no criminal record and was 18 at the time of the murders.
While Dickson vividly recounted the killings for nearly two weeks afterwards, he cannot remember them now, his lawyers said.
But Adams said the confession matched physical evidence, right down to how many times the victims were shot.
Dickson had several problems just before the killings. The Marines rejected him, but he told people he had already served in the military. Money went missing from his house and he had just broken up with his girlfriend, Adams said.
But Dickson called his father his hero on his MySpace page and friends told investigators he appeared to get along well with his stepmother and stepsister. He was a decent student in high school and well-liked by teachers and friends. There were no drugs or alcohol in his system, Adams said.
The confession gives no clues.
“I don’t know why I killed all my family today. Once I loaded that shotgun and shot Maritza I couldn’t stop and I did not stop until I had shot them all,” Dickson wrote, adding he was concerned it would affect his chances of enlisting in the Marines.
The confession also includes what Dickson did after the killings. He threw the gun into the woods, put on sandals and drove to a nearby convenience store for water and smokeless tobacco. He then bought a chicken biscuit with his stepsister’s debit card, but was so sick he ate only two bites. Then he rode four-wheelers with a friend.
Dickson apologised after pleading guilty.
“The question that will go unanswered – what was it that caused him to snap?” Tavernier said. “We’ll probably never know.”
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