Sunday, November 25, 2007

Slaying suspect described as ‘creepy’

Allan Robert Dickie of Maryland is charged with the August slaying of Claudia Toppin, and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Maryland teenager faces death penalty in August murder

Growing up in Maryland, he was the polite, friendly neighborhood kid. In high school, he was the unruly, black-attired outcast. In Gainesville, he was regarded as a creepy stranger, and later, a jailhouse troublemaker.

Now, at 19, at a time when many his age are toiling over college term papers or learning the ropes of their first full-time jobs, Allan Robert Dickie is facing the prospect of death by lethal injection.

In his relatively brief three-month stay at the Hall County Jail, he's built a reputation among detention officers as a difficult inmate. Deputies say he started a fire in his jail cell, and a mug shot shows he tattooed the word "IT," preceded by a four-letter obscenity, in inch-high letters on his forehead.

By the time he appeared in Hall County Superior Court on Wednesday, the jailhouse tattoo had faded some but remained visible.

Those who knew Dickie before he became a murder defendant, charged in the rape and stabbing death of a homeless woman late one August night outside a Gainesville supermarket, alternately describe him as seemingly normal and disturbingly odd.

"It's just so hard to understand," said former neighbor Michele Reed of Pasadena, Md. She has a son Dickie's age and remembers the defendant since he was in kindergarten. "I would never, out of all my son's friends, figure he would do something like this."

"He was pretty strange, but none of us expected this," said former high school classmate Shelly Neighoff.

Dickie was one of a steady stream of shabbily dressed street people who used the Hall County Library System's main downtown branch for computer access, according to library director Adrian Mixson.

Dickie began showing up at the library about two weeks before his Aug. 26 arrest, logging on to the Internet to access his account on Myspace, a popular social networking site that allows users to post personal information and communicate with others.

Dickie's user name on the site was "Chipmunk the Almighty," a reference to his high school nickname, "Chipmunk," according to Neighoff, a former classmate of Dickie's from Glenburnie, Md.

"He sent me a weird message on Myspace that I didn't want to answer," Neighoff said. She said she briefly gave Dickie a place to stay before he left Maryland about a month prior to his arrest.

"He said he was traveling the country and there was a drug reference in (the message)," Neighoff said. "He said he was with a friend trying stuff. It's weird, because I was trying to figure out how he got to Georgia. He did some kind of homeless traveling.".

Mixson, the library director, said Dickie unnerved his staffers. "They just felt he was kind of creepy," he said.

Grim discovery
At 7:15 on the morning of Aug. 26, Enrique Ochoa-Lupain arrived at the Supermercado Carillo on Pearl Nix Parkway to begin preparations for opening the store. He noticed blood spots on the ground near a loading dock and followed the drops to the back of the building, where he found the lifeless body of a black female. Her neck, head, left hand and other parts of her body were covered in stab wounds.

When Gainesville police arrived, they found perhaps the best piece of evidence they could ever want in a homicide investigation: A surveillance camera set up at the loading dock had recorded at least part of the crime. Police were able to glean from the video a solid description of their suspect, which they soon posted as a "be on the lookout" radio bulletin.

Around 11 a.m., a Hall County deputy saw Dickie walking in the area of Jesse Jewell Parkway and Branch Street. Dickie, who matched the description of the lookout, was taken into custody and driven to the Gainesville Police Department, where he was questioned, and then charged with murder.
Officials say the circumstances of the murder were particularly brutal.

The victim, 37-year-old Claudia Toppin, who had relatives in the Atlanta area, had only been in Gainesville a few days. She planned to take a bus from Gainesville to Florida, where a family member lived, according to Gainesville Police Lt. Brian Kelly.

At some point on the Aug. 25, she went to the Salvation Army shelter on Dorsey Street to inquire about a bed, Kelly said. Then she walked to the bus station on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, but was unable to purchase a ticket, Kelly said. When she returned to the shelter, there were no vacancies, he said.

Sometime after that, she crossed paths with Dickie, who authorities think she may have encountered before. They ended up at the loading dock area of the shiny new Hispanic supermarket, less than a mile from the shelter.

What followed was at least partially captured on surveillance video, but has not been fully detailed publicly by authorities. An indictment returned in October by a Hall County grand jury charges Dickie with kidnapping with bodily injury, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and murder, alleging Toppin sustained multiple stab wounds.

District Attorney Lee Darragh, when asked why he was seeking the death penalty, said the facts of the case were the primary consideration.

Outcast with a knife
Michele Reed remembers a gentle little boy who sat in her kitchen when he was in elementary school, chatty but polite.

"He was just your normal kid," said Reed, who lives two doors down from the Dickies in Pasadena, Md. "Allan was appreciative of anything and everything he was given. When he was 16, Allan would be excited that he got a new bicycle. He was a joy to have around."

Sometime during his teens, however, his life took a turn for the worse. "I heard he was kicked out of the house," Reed said. "I heard rumors he was living in the woods near my house. I went out to look for him once. Then he disappeared for a while. When he showed up again, his hair was cut really short."

Neighoff, who attended Chesapeake High School with Dickie before he dropped out in the 11th grade, recalled him as "a pretty weird kid."

"He was always kind of goofy, and he annoyed the crap out of a lot of people," she said. "He was never shy. He became sort of an outcast to a lot of people. But sometimes it was good to have him around for comic relief. He had an odd sense of humor."

Neighoff remembers going to Dickie's house, where he would practice with a band, playing bass guitar, until his parents kicked him out.

"I never asked his parents why," she said. "I know he didn't hold a job. He wasn't really doing anything. I know he smoked pot a lot. I'm assuming he was lazy and a bit of a troublemaker, and they kicked him out."

In school, Dickie would eat pencils and perform other off-the-wall, attention-grabbing stunts, said one former classmate who did not want her name used in this article. "I guess there was something really wrong with him," she said. "Everybody knew him, but he was really out there."

At the time he dropped out of Chesapeake High, he told friends he was encouraged by school administrators to leave, Neighoff said. "He said they told him that was probably the best thing for him to do," she said.

Former classmates remember Dickie's customary attire: ripped black jeans, black trench coat and black, steel-toed boots. "He took pride in those boots," she said.

Dickie also took pride in the pocket knife he kept clipped to his pants, she said. "He was always quick to show off his knife, and let you know he had one," she said. "He would just randomly pull it out and show it to people."

Jail arson, new tattoo
During the recent transfer of more than 500 inmates from the old Hall County jail to the new facility, Dickie, like some other murder defendants, was deemed high-risk and driven individually in a patrol car rather than loaded into a bus with other inmates.

On Oct. 29, prior to the move, Dickie managed to deface an electrical light switch, put the wires together to create an arc and set his jail-issued shirt on fire, Hall Sheriff's officials said.

The offense earned him additional charges of arson and interference with government property. A mug shot taken on the day of the incident shows Dickie glaring into the camera with the new, confrontational tattoo emblazoned across his forehead.

On Wednesday, Dickie appeared normal and calm as he sat with attorneys during a brief court hearing held to decide which judge would preside over his death penalty case.

The case is likely to involve defense motions questioning Dickie's sanity or mental aptitude and his criminal intent in Toppin's death.

Reed, the former neighbor who said she was "devastated" by Dickie's arrest, thinks the jailhouse antics are evidence he is "crying out for help." "I think Allan has emotional, psychological and mental problems," she said.

Defense attorneys, prosecutors and police are not commenting on Dickie or the pending case. Efforts to reach the murder victim's family have been unsuccessful.

In an e-mail, Reed wrote that her son, Nick, is distraught over his former friend's arrest. "He cannot get Allan off his mind, and neither can I," she said. "We both wish we could have done something, or that we could have seen this coming."


Anonymous said...

this man killed my aunt, all i have to say is you dont wake up in the morning check your myspace and then kill an inocent homeless woman to cry out for attention, plus he has already received attention NOW so why is he still burning shirts and flooding his cell...he's not crazy he's trying to back up his recent mistake by pleading insanity...

Anonymous said...

i grew up with this guy and i told everyone he needed help. i knew he was a lumatic and im so sorry for the family's loss.

Anonymous said...

This women was a mother of 6 children ,she was a very special person. I wish they would stop saying homeless women .
The man who killed Claudia should be haunted for the rest of his life
and die a much worse death.

Anonymous said...

I dated him in 9th grade he scared the hell out of me so i broke up with him i actually had some of my friends camp out side my house for a few weeks cause i was scared todeath he was going to come hurt me im so glad hes locked up now

Anonymous said...

I feel so sad for her family; sending love and blessings their way.

I'm mystified as to how these things happen....his parents are such good people. I know he was raised right, so it can't be environmental.

It's just so sad.

Anonymous said...

This woman, Claudia Toppin, is my best friends mama...shes not homeless...but i still pray for her whole family!!! love you J

Stephen Gurr said...

Hey, I wrote this article. It was in the Gainesville Times, though there is no credit given here. Claudia Toppin was called homeless because that's what the police kept telling me she was. I tried without success to contact her sister by sending her a letter. If any of Ms. Toppin's relatives or friends care to contact me and straighten me out on this matter, please do so by e-mailing me at thanks!

Anonymous said...

osvqyxpyIf only you people would think before you speak. This woman you keep referring to was not only a devoted mother of 6, but also a very caring wife. I would appreciate if you would stop referring to her as a homeless woman. My kids and I will not rest until justice is served and Mr. Dickie gets what he deserves. He showed no emotion or compasion for my wife so why should my kids and I feel any for him. I hope he rots in HELL (HELL I SAY). My family will never be the same. In addition, all of you who claim to have known him well, I guess you really did'nt really know him at all. In memory of my loving wife!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU WILL LIVE FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS BABY J,D,B,B,B,L AND J.D.T. FOREVER

simba said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
simba said...

i knew this guy. he made tremendous toasted cheese!! man i miss it!!!

Neighoff said...

Okay, seriously FUCK OFF. to the girl that said below that Allan scared her and thats why she dumped him and the whole "oh i needed friends to camp outside myhouse for weeks" THATS BULLSHIT. first of all, no chesapeake high school student really gave a flying fuck about this sort of thing. and no one is going to let their kids camp out at someones house just in case someone showed up. Thats a made up story from some stupid girl tryin to get attention because she dated Allan. You probably didn't like him cause he was weird and broke up immdediately. Knowing him, he was probably really upset over it and seemed bent out of shape. sounds like someone tryin to just add to the fire. secondly, to the guy or the husband or whoever you are supposed to be, below stating that we "must not have known Allan that well". Why don't you just shut up? Shouldn't you be at home with your kids not making matters worse? Seriously, I'm more mature than you are, even with this pissed off comment of mine. I sure as hell did. I'M NEIGHOFF, the girl in the article. if anyone mentioned or here knew Allan really well, other than his parents, it was me. i was in his band for 2 yrs, i met him freshman year in school, i was close to his parents, he had lived with me once, he was in my classes, and we even went to band venues and shows together. Yes Allan was weird, yes there seemed to be problems and he often talked to me about them. JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE DOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS, DOESN'T MEAN THAT WE DIDN'T KNOW HIM WELL ENOUGH TO ASSUME HE'D GO AND DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS. No one had any idea and no one expected that he would take anything that far. Perfectly normal people sometimes snap without warning. I'm sorry for your loss and the homeless traveling. I know people can not be replaced and that this situation is horrible. But I don't think anyone here should be tryin to feed this fire, and I don't think tryin to talk SHIT to anyone coming from the Allan side is fair either. Why didn't any of your family decide to maybe...I don't know give her a ride to her other families house? Why is a "CARING MOTHER OF 6" wandering around Georgia in alley's and behind stores late at night, and going to homeless shelters? Why didn't anyone come forward to say she 'wasn't' homeless when this all started? Why was she walking around some town with nothing? And why do all the articles I've found say that she pretty much screwed up at the time and wanted to get back on her feet so she left her family? Seems to me that she went homeless and decided to just travel for her own reasons. But to say she wasn't homeless, sounds like a load of bull. Allan is my friend, despite what he has done and the fact I don't know what I could say to him or look at him if I ever did see him again, but when we were around eachother, he had just been this weird, goofy, different kind of guy. I don't want that to be misunderstood in this article. As a matter of fact, Allan's defender came to my house to talk to me and get anything that would show Allan in our typical lives, and I did INFACT show her videos of our band practices, him at my mom's house for a summer party, school pictures, etc. I am not sayin that what he did was okay by any means, and I'm totally pissed off at him for this. But this was not Allan, this was not who he was and what he was about.

Greg said...

He Did what he did and Was punnished accordingly for it.. Life without Parole.. Both Parties of this tradgic incident had issues at the time.. One Died and one Went to Jail.. He was probably a good kid growing up but on that day.. He became a Murderer.. Point Blank.. No excuses-- No reason can be given to Justify That Act.. To his Friend.. you're the friend of a Murderer.. If he murdered your Mother or your sister for any reason, you wouldn't want simpathy.. no matter what he says.. you can ask him Why.. i thought we were friends but it won't bring back you lost loved one.. so Simpathy wouldn't be on your mind.. only Pain and Anger towards him.. No matter what the Circumstances were.. HE KILLED.. He Comitted Murder... Took the Life of another.. A Woman at that.. Multiple Stab Wounds to her Hands, Head, Neck Stomach and chest.. So she was aware of her impending death.. Brutal.. but you claim him as a friend and speak of what he used to do growing up.. Claudia's Husband is right.. You Obviously didn't TRUELY know him at all.. his school friends saw it.. teachers saw it.. At the Court hearing/Trial - it was stated (All of his Childhood Psychologists) saw it.. He was mentaly unstable.. he had a tic.. So what you saw of him growing up was just a small Glimps of the Monster inside.. Think about that when you Sleep..

R.I.P. My Loving Sister Claudia McPherson Toppin... Peace and Love to All my Family and All those who Knew her and loved her.. She lives Everyday in our hearts, minds and thoughts..

Written by her baby Brother.. GM

Anonymous said...

I grew up with him as well, and I can tell you, point blank, that he would do something like this someday. I am so sorry for this family's loss. He is a monster. A murderer. And the girl who claims to be his friend, I also went to school with him, rode the bus with him, lived within a block of him. He was not a "weird, goofy kid", he was a scarey, creppy predator who stared down people, threatened to kill people, and make vulgar, horrible comments to anyone and everyone. I knew him in high school and I feared him in high school. I knew him enough to know he was and is a terrible, terrible person. How dare you speak badly of the deceased, she was victim, he was murderer. Plain and simple. None of the details of her life leading up to that night are relevant. Allan Dickie killed her. He did it, her circumstances had nothing to do with it. If you happened to be behind that supermarket with him, he probably would have raped, assaulted, sodomized and killed you instead. I hope he does not get the death penalty, I want him to fester in prision for the rest of his life, die an old, lonely, destroyed man. I hope this woman's soul haunts him every waking hour, and is in all of his nightmares. He deserves all of what is coming his way.

Lil sister said...

it amazes me how some people would do anything to get Stephen Gurr who wrote the article on my sister...if you think calling my apartment complex and harassing the complex manager about which apartment i live in trying to get in contact with me, you have a funny way of showing your concern for me and my family...i chose not to contact you because i do not trust the media..because even though the police made reference to my sister as homeless, you as a reporter could have clarified her living to the letter you said you sent...i haven't received any letter from his so called friend should be very ashamed to call this person your say there were no signs of his mental state...this was no random just don't just wake up and say, hey i'm going to kill today...and if you really believed in your friend the way you say you do..why wasn't you in court when he needed you...neither you, his parents nor any of his relatives were in court...from day one i was in court.. all of the pre trial motions, i was in court for..looking at a person that has shown no remorse is what i had to look at every time i went to court..So for you Neighoff to say that he was a good person, just a little weird, i have to question your state of mind..a good person would have said i'm sorry to the court and to the family, a good person would show remorse every time the victim name was mention..imagine if that was your sister, or your mother,or your daughter, or your would not be saying that he was a good person just a little weird..just in case you don't know, that bastard got life without parole..he will never see the light of day...he has to live the fact that he killed my sister forever...i hope my sister's memory haunts him for the rest of his miserable life...and as for your videos you showed his lawyer, it never made it to the court room...nothing can bring back my nieces and nephews will never have their mother him taking my sister away from this world has changed so many lives doesn't matter what she had going on in her life..she was a person who was, is, and for ever be loved