SC man confesses to slayings of 4 family members

September 24th, 2009 by

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A South Carolina man confessed Monday to methodically stalking and 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 didn’t say why he killed his father, stepmother, stepsister and younger brother at their Easley home in April 2008, and Prosecutor Chrissy Adams said the motive may never be known. Defense attorney Kurt Tavernier said not being able to figure out why he killed his family gnaws at Dickson every day.

Adams read Dickson’s confession in court in Anderson County. 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, 41-year-old Maritza Dickson, while she was in bed talking to her daughter.

Dickson’s stepsister, 19-year-old Jiliam Salazar, 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 twice, going to his father’s bedroom to get more ammunition each time. The final shot went into his brother’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 911.

“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, 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 afterward, he can’t remember them now, his attorneys 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 also 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 only ate two bites. Then he rode four-wheelers with a friend.

Dickson apologized after pleading guilty.

“The question that will go unanswered – what was it that caused him to snap?” defense attorney Tavernier said. “We’ll probably never know.”

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