Teen given life sentence for killing elderly man

A teenager who shot an elderly man to death and critically wounded his wife was sentenced in Louisa Circuit Court to a prison term of 128 years.

Cameryn Dickerson killed Roger Payne, who was 82, on Nov. 12, 2019 and shot his wife Nancy after marching them out of their South Spotswood Trail house and onto the nearby railroad tracks. Despite serious injuries, Nancy Payne was able to walk to a neighbor’s house to call 911. 

Two days before the shootings, Dickerson had come to the Paynes’ door and claimed that his girlfriend had been abducted. When he returned on Nov. 12, he demanded their money, took their phones and cut the phone lines to the house, said Robert Wood, Louisa County deputy commonwealth’s attorney. 

After shooting the Paynes, Dickerson left the scene in the couple’s car. He was arrested in Nelson County as he drove to see his girlfriend. He had used some of the Paynes’ money to buy her gifts, Wood said.

Judge John Cullen sentenced Dickerson at the Nov. 10 hearing to life in prison with all but 50 years suspended. On charges of robbery and armed burglary, Dickerson’s sentence is 50 years each with 25 years suspended. Cullen also gave the youth a 20-year sentence for malicious wounding and eight years for using a firearm to commit felonies.

“I lost my dad, my mentor, my best friend,” Connie Payne, Roger Payne’s eldest daughter, testified in court. “I never got the chance to say goodbye ... Dad still had a lot of life left, a lot of wisdom to give.” 

Dickerson’s childhood had been scarred by a poor living environment, according to his attorney, Juan Vega. His mother abandoned him when he was a toddler and he was shuttled between various homes. At some point, Vega said, Dickerson became a regular user of various substances, including cocaine and methamphetamine. In addition, Dickerson’s father Andre sometimes beat his son often, to the point that the boy sometimes skipped school because of the marks left on him.

“He didn’t stand a chance in this world,” Vega said.

Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty McGuire scorned the suggestion that drugs could have affected Cameryn Dickerson’s state of mind at the time of the shootings, citing a negative drug test a few weeks beforehand. Det. Garland Mills, who investigated the incident for the sheriff’s office, told prosecutors Dickerson did not seem to be under the influence of any substances.

Andre Dickerson took the witness stand during the hearing to express regret at how he had treated his son, and for the Paynes.

“I wish I could go back and take that day away,” he said. "I let [the Payne family] down. I let the community down. I let Cameryn down. I’m sorry.” 

Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty McGuire said that Cameryn Dickerson told authorities a number of stories about what happened at the Paynes’ house on Nov. 12. One was that a person named “Q” came to the house, bought the gun from Dickerson and then shot the Paynes. Another was that Roger Payne pushed Dickerson and the gun then went off. But Dickerson also said that events occurred just as the evidence suggested.

Andre Dickerson said that he contacted a probation officer a week before the shootings in Orange County, where Cameryn had been charged with a misdemeanor, and said that his son needed mental health services. The officer gave Dickerson the name and number of a counselor, who never called back.  

But during a court hearing last December in Louisa Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Judge Deborah Tinsley denied a request by Cameryn Dickerson’s attorney for a mental evaluation. She said there was no evidence in Dickerson’s record that he had mental health issues or that his father had sought help.

At the sentencing, Vega said that Dickerson had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and attempted suicide in the past. A doctor who examined Dickerson via a Zoom call earlier this year told prosecutors he did not see any sign of mental illness.

Dickerson, who was 16 at the time of the shootings, will be eligible for parole in 20 years. A state law that went into effect on July 1 reinstates the possibility of parole for juveniles. If Dickerson is released in the future, Cullen ordered that he pay restitution to the Virginia Victims’ Fund. The fund is a state program to help violent crime victims with out of pocket expenses.

“We hope that the sentence will help the Payne family find a small amount of solace and closure,” McGuire said.

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