Illinois: Nijinsky Dix was a doctoral student in criminology, law and justice at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She completed her classwork but still had to write her dissertation while working full time at the University of Notre Dame, where she oversaw two federally funded programs promoting educational equity.
Terry Hickman was a divorced father of three, a freight hauler with three semi-trucks who was busy trying to expand his fleet and hire drivers. He recently relocated to the District from Nashville to be close to his daughter, who was a graduate student at Howard University.
Authorities said Dix and Hickman met at a party in South Bend, Indiana, in February 2020, when Hickman was visiting relatives. She was 36; he was 44. Later, after they began a romance at the height of the pandemic, Dix wanted an exclusive relationship while Hickman preferred to date other women and focus on his business and adult children, DC homicide detectives said.
Six months later, detectives said, after Hickman had decided to break up with Dix, he asked her to stop calling him. He even blocked her number on his cellphone.
The decision cost him his life, according to police. They said Dix, angry about being rejected, packed a firearm in her luggage on November 14, 2020, and caught a flight from Indiana to Washington, where she rented a car, drove to Hickman's Southwest Washington home and fatally shot him.
Guilty to second-degree murder
On Friday, more than a dozen of Hickman's relatives gathered in DC Superior Court to watch a judge send Dix to prison for 18 years. The sentence was part of a deal with prosecutors in which she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. She initially had been charged with first-degree murder.
"I am immensely sorry," Dix told Judge Marisa J. Demeo. Sitting next to her attorney, she said: "I am unable to articulate with the colour of words. I apologise for the past 1,029 days of grief and anguish. I hope today begins to offer some peace and healing to everyone affected by my actions that day."
Hickman's daughters, siblings and an uncle said they were outraged by the plea bargain. They said Dix deserved more time in prison.
"This was planned," Harry Hickman said of his nephew's death. "I know for a fact Terry could not have seen this coming. How does someone plan a murder, carry it out and not receive life in prison?"
Hickman's sister Ashley Hickman said Dix aggressively befriended Hickman's loved ones in hopes they would convince him to begin seeing her again. Addressing Dix in court, the sister said: "This loss is so great. And for what? Over a relationship that was only a few months old? I don't think he realized the extent of your obsession."
Dix's 'obsession' with Hickman
In the fall of 2020, prosecutors said, Dix's 'obsession' with Hickman escalated when she began catching flights to Washington to stalk him in the city. In September 2020, according to court documents, Hickman told his daughter that he had seen Dix sitting in a vehicle outside his apartment near the Southwest Duck Pond.
Then, on November 14, 2020, after Hickman had packed up his belongings in preparation to move, authorities said, Dix flew to Washington with a handgun in her checked bag. Armed with the pistol, which she had purchased in Florida two weeks earlier, she drove to Hickman's apartment in a rented car and shot him five times - in his neck and face and the back of his head.
When police arrived, responding to a report of gunshots, they found Dix holding a .9mm pistol and kneeling at Hickman's feet. His body was face down on the apartment floor. According to court documents, Dix told the officers that Hickman "pushed me and I shot him."
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'That's not love. I don't want that. . . . I'm sorry'
After her arrest, when DC homicide detectives showed Dix a photograph of Hickman, she screamed: "You don't do people you love like that. That's not love. I don't want that. . . . I'm sorry," according to court documents.
In imposing the prison sentence, Demeo called the slaying "violent and tragic" and ordered psychiatric and trauma-related counseling for Dix behind bars.
At Notre Dame, according to her attorney, Dix was director of the federally funded Upward Bound and Educational Talent Search programs. Those are "outreach and student services programs . . . designed to ensure equal educational opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race, ethnic background or economic circumstance," Notre Dame's website says. Dix also belongs to the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, whose members include Vice President Harris, novelist Toni Morrison and poet Maya Angelou.
In his sentencing memo to the judge, Assistant US Attorney John Interrante said Dix's advantages in life - her intelligence, education and financial means - were reasons that her crime "should be severely punished."
'Carefully orchestrated killing'
He wrote that Dix carefully orchestrated the killing by ordering a handgun online at a Jacksonville, Fla. pawnshop - near where her mother and siblings reside - weeks before the shooting, then picking it up in person. Authorities said she also purchased a gun box and ammunition and packed them with the pistol in her checked luggage for the flight to Washington. Inside her rental car after the shooting, authorities found an American Airlines and Transportation Security Administration tag that read "firearm unloaded."
Hickman's relatives said Dix showed clear signs of obsessiveness. The victim's daughter Mirako Hickman, who also spoke at Friday's sentencing hearing, said Dix often telephoned family members, asking them why Hickman had broken up with her.
"She called me crying when I was at my mother's house in Detroit," Mirako Hickman said in an interview. "She said my Dad didn't want to talk to her anymore, and then she asked me what she should do. I told her to leave him alone." Mirako Hickman said Dix "seemed really desperate. She thanked me for the advice, and that was it."
Prosecutors said Dix showered Hickman's loved ones with gifts, hoping they would support her attempts to reunite with her ex-boyfriend. Mirako Hickman said Dix even arranged a summer internship for her at Notre Dame. She said Dix also gave her a Tiffany & Co. bracelet as a gift - but her father insisted that she return it.
She said her Dad had an outgoing personality.
"We would walk down any street in Washington, and people would stop us and, with smiles on their faces, say, 'Hey, Terry,'" the daughter recalled. "Everyone seemed to know him and want to be around him."