LOUISA — A Louisa County teenager on Tuesday was handed a sentence that likely will see him spend the rest of his life in prison for the 2019 murder of an elderly man and the malicious wounding of his wife.
Cameryn A. Dickerson, 17, was sentenced to an active term of 128 years in prison in Louisa County Circuit court after he pleaded guilty in August to first-degree murder, malicious wounding, robbery, burglary and other firearm charges.
Prosecutors said that Dickerson went to the home of Roger Payne, 82, and Nancy Payne, 73, on Nov. 12, 2019, forcing the couple to walk nearly a mile from their home before shooting them. Though Roger Payne died from his wounds, a gravely wounded Nancy Payne managed to walk to a neighbor’s house and receive help.
Nearly a year after the violent crime, Nancy Payne and her family and friends gathered in the Louisa County courtroom for Dickerson’s sentencing. Physically distanced from each other and masked, the family and friends stared mutely ahead, occasionally stifling quiet sobs.
Dickerson, dressed in a gray dress shirt, sat shackled beside his attorney as the Commonwealth outlined its evidence against the teenager.
Rusty E. McGuire, Louisa County Commonwealth’s attorney, shared much of the same evidence presented in previous hearings, detailing a crime he characterized as “premeditated,” and proffering the evidence Nancy would have testified to.
Two days prior to the slaying of Roger, McGuire said Dickerson had “cased” the location, presenting himself to the Paynes under a false name and fabricating a story about his girlfriend being abducted. Dickerson would return two days later, once in the morning and again in the afternoon, when he held the Paynes at gunpoint before stealing their vehicle and approximately $300 in cash, McGuire said.
“I can only imagine what was going through their minds as they were marched to their deaths,” McGuire said.
After stealing the Paynes’ vehicle, McGuire said Dickerson drove to a Walmart where he used the stolen money to purchase candies and a teddy bear. He then proceeded to head toward Lynchburg and was apprehended in Nelson County.
Once apprehended, Dickerson told authorities various versions of events, initially claiming some random man gave him the vehicle before claiming a mysterious man named “Q” had killed the Paynes and given him their car. After he was informed that Nancy had survived, he confirmed the authorities’ theory of events, upon which the plea agreement was later based.
Four victim impact testimonies were given to the judge but only one was read aloud. Connie Payne, Roger’s oldest daughter, read her statement to the court, describing her father as an amazing man who shared a love of horses.
The whole family would regularly travel to Roger and Nancy’s home for holidays and get togethers and the location had been a source of love and joy, she said. However, the murder of her father and wounding of her step-mother had tainted those memories, she said.
“We didn’t just lose our family gathering place, we lost our loving memories as well,” she said.
Dickerson’s attorney, Juan L. Vega, called a single witness: Dickerson’s father Andre.
According to Andre’s testimony, his son never knew his mother and had a difficult life. His son was often in trouble and was on probation for larceny before the slaying.
The elder Dickerson claimed he tried to get counseling for his son but received no returned calls from Orange County Social Services officials, a claim which was refuted by the county, according to McGuire.
When asked about allegations from his son that he had been a physically and emotionally abusive parent, the elder Dickerson confirmed the claims and apologized.
“It’s my fault, I’m sorry I let the community down,” he said. “I’m sorry I let you down as a father. I’m just sorry.”
In the weeks leading up to the crime, the elder Dickerson said he had attempted to tell his son’s probation officer that his son should be locked up. However, these requests were not heeded, he said.
Vega said Dickerson had been dealing with drug addiction since he was 11 years-old, which the attorney argued had an adverse effect on his mental health and emotional growth. Citing from portions of a lengthy letter written by the defendant, Vega said Dickerson claims to have been on a cocktail of illicit substances the day of the murder and regretted his actions greatly.
“[Dickerson] did not stand a chance in this world,” Vega said. “He does not ask for mercy from the court, he is taking responsibility for his actions.”
The teenager has lived a tumultuous life filled with pain and addiction, Vega said, and said Dickerson claimed to have attempted suicide after the murder.
Vega asked the court for a downward departure of 25 years, part of which would be served in juvenile facilities, in order to meet his client’s rehabilitation needs.
McGuire would later disagree with Vega’s characterizations of Dickerson, citing the variety of stories told to authorities as evidence the teenager had not taken responsibility for his crimes. McGuire also scoffed at the drug claims, pointing to a lack of evidence from Nancy and the authorities as well as a negative drug test taken a few weeks before the crimes.
Given the premeditation and violent nature of the crimes, McGuire said he could not in good conscience request anything less than life in prison.
Prior to sentencing, Dickerson spoke for the first time and said he was “overwhelmed with guilt.”
“I want to apologize to the Payne family, I can’t imagine the pain I’ve caused them,” he said. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared or am prepared for all this.”
Following Dickerson’s apology, Judge John R. Cullen sentenced the teenager to a 128-year active term. Fifty years of the sentence came from the first-degree murder charge, 25 years for the robbery charge, 20 years for malicious wounding, 25 years for armed burglary, and eight years for two firearm charges.
Cullen granted a request from Rappahannock Juvenile Center to have Dickerson report immediately to Central Virginia Jail.
In the event of Dickerson’s release, he will have to pay approximately $10,000 to the Virginia Victims Fund for the cost of Roger’s funeral and will be on perpetual probation. Given Virginia’s lack of parole, it appears Dickerson’s only means of release would be geriatric release, which is only available to incarcerated individuals who are aged 60 and above and who have served more than half of their sentence.