from the State.com
EASLEY SC April 28 2008
— Nathan Dickson was going through a rough patch in his life. The teen and his live-in girlfriend had broken up and he was dealing with tension from moving back in with his parents a year after graduating high school and going out on his own.
Still, the 18-year-old politely answered questions on a visit to a friend a week ago, according to the friend’s mother. Dickson text-messaged the same teen Friday, saying he was going to ride four-wheelers with friends.
Less than 12 hours later, authorities say Dickson gunned down his father, stepmother, 19-year-old stepsister and 14-year-old brother at their Easley home Saturday morning. He has been charged with four counts of murder, leaving friends and neighbors trying to grapple with how the quiet teen who loved video games and sports and always called women “ma’am” could be capable of the largest killing spree officials in this county of 180,000 can recall in at least 50 years.
“I can’t put my finger on what happened,” said Melissa Funk, whose 16-year-old son, Robbie, was good friends with both the suspect and youngest victim. “It’s not what I’ve known him to be.”
Authorities won’t talk about what might have prompted Dickson’s shooting spree or whether he is talking to investigators. “I’m going to have this case tried in the courtroom, not out on the streets,” Anderson County Sheriff David Crenshaw said Sunday.
Dickson is the only suspect in the case and more charges could be filed against him, Crenshaw said.
Crenshaw said he does not think the teen has an attorney.
The sheriff said he can’t remember ever dealing with the teen before Saturday’s quadruple homicide.
The killings unfolded in a one-story house with tan siding and bright blue shutters in a wooded neighborhood about five miles from Easley. A plastic tricycle and basketball goal were overturned in the yard Sunday.
An orange notice stuck to the front door warned of biohazard material inside and recommending calling someone to clean up before entering.
Just to the left of the front door is a window for the laundry room where authorities say 14-year-old Taylor Dickson was found behind a clothes dryer, apparently trying to hide from his brother. The blinds were up and the inside pane of glass had a fist-sized hole in it. The outside pane was not damaged.
Deputies found Taylor’s body last, a few hours after someone called 911 Saturday morning to report a man injured in the yard of the home. Samuel Andrew Dickson Jr., 46, died as paramedics arrived. Officers then went inside and found the bodies of his wife, 46-year-old Martiza Hurtado Dickson, and his 19-year-old stepdaughter, Melissa Giliam Salazar.
All were shot to death. Authorities would not say how many times they were shot or release other details.
Neighbors said the family was quiet and kept to themselves. Joyce Allen’s husband worked with Samuel Dickson, who went by the nickname “Andy.” The elder Dickson was an electrician with Vulcan Materials, a company that provides crushed stone, sand and gravel for construction.
Dickson didn’t say much at work, keeping to himself. Most of Allen’s memories are of him with his sons.
“He was crazy, crazy, crazy about those kids,” Allen said. “I’d see him running up and down the road, taking them to ball games.”
Taylor Dickson had just made one of the junior varsity baseball teams at Wren High School a year after failing to make the cut. His father, who had coached his youth teams, was so proud he bought him several Wren High school shirts and caps, said Melissa Funk, whose son was friends with the Dickson boys.
Funk said she thought the two brothers seemed close. When word came that four people were dead inside the home, Funk said she figured the fourth victim might be the stepsister’s boyfriend, and Nathan Dickson and his brother escaped with their lives.
“I figured we’d find him safe with Taylor, or that it had to be something else,” Funk said.
Neighbors said they didn’t see Martiza Dickson much. She was a native of Colombia and worked as a translator. Melissa Salazar graduated from high school last year and was going to technical college, Funk said.
Funk said her 16-year-old son is taking what happened hard. He had been hanging around with Nathan Dickson since the two families moved into the neighborhood about five years ago. Dickson’s younger brother would tag along too.
“He’s heartbroken,” Funk’s husband, Robert, said. “Those were his only friends in the neighborhood.”
Dickson graduated from high school last year and moved in with his girlfriend, working a series of fast-food and restaurant jobs. The two broke up and Dickson moved back in with his parents about two weeks ago, said Funk, who wasn’t sure if he had found another job before the killings.
The last time her son saw Dickson was Friday evening in the driveway. Funk said her son told her that Dickson’s eyes were bloodshot and he looked like he needed to sleep. Dickson later sent a text message to him saying he was out with friends, Melissa Funk said.
Sitting on her couch the day after the killings, Funk recalled with tears in her eyes the only time she remembered Dickson getting in trouble. She was coming to pick up her son at the high school and the teen was sitting outside the principal’s office.
“I said, ‘Nathan, what are you doing here?’ And he said, ‘Mrs. Funk, I have holes in my blue jeans.’”
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