Jesse Edward Dickerson pleaded guilty Monday to murder and fleeing charges in a 2017 crash that killed three siblings and seriously injured their mother.
During his plea, he admitted the crash happened after he decided to run from a law enforcement officer who had turned on blue lights.
The 25-year-old’s voice shook as he described his actions as a “wrong choice” that “wound up with three kids getting killed.”
He had been set go to trial Monday on three counts of second-degree murder and felony fleeing causing injuries in the March 25, 2017, crash.
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In exchange for the plea to three counts of second-degree murder, District Attorney Angel Myers McIlrath recommended the maximum 40-year day-for-day sentence for each murder charge, to run concurrently, plus an additional 20 years for felony fleeing.
In all, Dickerson is facing a 60-year sentence.
Dickerson was ordered to have no contact with the family of the victims, including the children’s mother, Jackie Dixon, who lost both legs and suffered other injuries in the crash. She was unable to be in court Monday.
“In just a matter of minutes, a mother lost three of her four children,” McIlrath said. “This was not a tragic accident but rather a series of choices made by the defendant that callously and senselessly took the lives of three children. The mother of the children, a victim herself, had taken the defendant in and tried to help him months prior to the collision. The defendant’s choices have left a wake of destruction that none of us can repair. I hope this 60-year sentence serves justice for this community and sends a message that we will hold criminals accountable for their actions.”
‘Begging him to stop’
Dickerson and Dixon were in a 2003 Kia Optima with three children under 10, a 16-year-old and a 21-year-old.
When blue lights flashed behind him, Dickerson said he sped off. He saw a truck coming toward them and tried to run off the road.
“During that pursuit, Jackie Dixon was begging him to stop,” McIlrath said. “She was praying for her kids.”
Dickerson lost control of the car just before 4 p.m. and slammed into the sign outside of Mississippi Furniture Warehouse on Mississippi 198 just east of Depot Road.
McIlrath pointed out authorities had called off the pursuit but Dickerson continued to speed away, nearly hitting another car before he crashed.
After the crash, he got out of the car and ran, leaving behind the six passengers.
Killed were first-grader Sierra Jean Dixon, 7, and fourth-grader Terra Dixon, 9, both students at George County’s Central Elementary School, and their brother, Spencer Havard, a 16-year-old former student at George County High School.
Only two passengers were not seriously injured. None were wearing seat belts.
The community mourned the loss of the children at a candlelight vigil that drew almost 1,000 people.
Drinking and driving
McIlrath said Dickerson insisted on driving even though he had a suspended driver’s license and had been drinking.
Before the crash, a good Samaritan noticed Dickerson was drinking alcohol and driving with kids when the Kia stopped at a Taco Bell. The person reported what they saw to authorities in an attempt to get Dickerson off the road.
He was arrested the day after the wreck.
“After the accident, he chose to leave and he went to a friend’s house, and he lied to that friend so he could get medical treatment for those (Dickerson’s) injuries,” McIlrath said.
At the time of his arrest, he said he loved all the children. He was tearful when he said, “All I can remember is waking up in the woods.”
Judge Dale Harkey imposed the recommended sentence Monday.
Dickerson’s brother, Chris Baxter, is serving life without parole in prison for the July 2010 death of former George County Sheriff Garry Welford. Baxter and then-girlfriend Brandy Williams led deputies on a chase until their pickup truck struck and killed Welford.
Assistant District Attorney Cherie Wade added: “This case has caused heartache for those who witnessed the defendants actions - from the good Samaritan who called to report the defendant to the innocent drivers who were almost hit head on by the defendant during his flight from law enforcement, to the first responders who worked tirelessly to save the victims in the vehicle.
“No one endured more heartache than the surviving victim and mother of the three children who died in the crash.”