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DA to seek death penalty in August murder
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Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh filed notice of intent to seek the death penalty Friday against a 19-year-old drifter accused of raping and stabbing to death a homeless woman in August.

Allan Robert Dickie is the second Hall County murder defendant to face the death penalty since Darragh took office in August 2005. Another defendant, Cornelio Zamites, faces a scheduled 2008 death penalty trial in connection with the molestation and strangulation death of a 4-year-old girl.

Gainesville police have released few details about the Aug. 26 murder of 37-year-old Claudia Toppin, which was reportedly recorded by a surveillance camera near a loading dock of the Supermercado Carillo in the 700 block of Pearl Nix parkway. The store is less than a mile from a Salvation Army shelter where Toppin had sought a bed earlier in the day, according to police.

Dickie, of Pasadena, Md., wandered the streets of Gainesville in the weeks prior to his arrest, according to officials with the Hall County Library System, who often saw him using computers inside the main branch library downtown.

Asked Friday why he is seeking the death penalty against Dickie, Darragh said, "Upon examination of the facts of the case, it was appropriate to formally file the notice of intent to seek the death penalty. Otherwise, I'll let the notice speak for itself."

In standard language used in capital cases in Georgia, the notice outlines five alleged aggravating circumstances necessary under the law to seek the death penalty. The state alleges that the murder was committed during the commission of aggravated battery, rape, kidnapping with bodily injury and aggravated sodomy. The state also alleges the murder was "outrageously and wantonly vile, horrible and inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity of mind and an aggravated battery to the victim, Claudia Toppin."

An indictment returned by a Hall County grand jury Oct. 4 charges Dickie with murder, three counts of felony murder, aggravated battery, two counts of aggravated assault, rape, kidnapping with bodily injury and aggravated sodomy.

The indictment charges that Dickie "seriously disfigured" Toppin's body by "stabbing her in the neck, head, abdomen and left hand and about her body."

Darragh said his office had been in contact with Toppin's relatives, but that he made the decision to seek the death penalty independently of any talks with the victim's family. Repeated efforts by The Times to contact members of Toppin's family, who live in Cumming and New York, have been unsuccessful.

Dickie is currently represented by the Office of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit Public Defender. Chief Public Defender Brad Morris did not return a message seeking comment Friday.

The case may be transferred to the Atlanta-based Office of the Georgia Capital Defender, which generally handles most of the state's death penalty cases involving indigent defendants.

Hall County Superior Court Judge Jason Deal is the judge of record in Dickie's case so far, but that could change. Under rules of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit Superior Court involving death penalty cases, the circuit's four judges will have a lottery drawing in the next few weeks to determine who presides over the case.