Slain trooper's widow: Angry 'I can't grow old with him now'

Written by Michael Rubinkam/Associated Press | Apr 20, 2017 3:34 PM

Photo by AP Photo/David Kidwell, File

(Milford) -- The widow of a Pennsylvania State Police trooper shot and killed by a survivalist in a 2014 ambush described a sad, lonely life without her husband and said their two young sons are struggling without him.

"I don't have a break. I'm just really tired," Tiffany Dickson, the widow of Cpl. Bryon Dickson II, told jurors Thursday at the trial of her husband's killer. "He was my break and he was a really good teammate. I'm just angry I can't grow old with him now."

She testified at a hearing to determine whether Eric Frein will be sentenced to death or to life in prison without parole.

Frein, 33, was convicted Wednesday of all 12 charges he faced more than two years after targeting the state police in a late-night sniper attack.

The focus Thursday shifted to the impact of Frein's crimes. He killed Dickson, a 38-year-old Marine veteran, and critically wounded Trooper Alex Douglass, who was shot through both hips as he came to the aid of his mortally wounded comrade and suffers from a range of health problems.

Tiffany Dickson testified that her oldest son, who had just turned 8 when his father was killed, couldn't eat or sleep and started biting himself and wetting the bed.

"He screamed, 'I just want to die. I want to see Daddy. Can't we just die together?'" Dickson said, adding he had to be medicated.

Her younger son, who was 5 at the time, was angry and likewise couldn't eat or sleep. He remains defiant and hates school, she said.

Prosecutors urged the same jury that convicted Frein to send him to death row, while defense lawyers argued for a sentence of life without parole. The penalty phase is expected to wrap up early next week.

Frein melted into the woods after taking four shots with a high-powered rifle, eluding capture for nearly seven weeks. Prosecutors say he opened fire on random troopers at the Blooming Grove barracks in the Pocono Mountains because he was trying to spark a revolution.

Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin called Frein a terrorist and told reporters after the guilty verdict that he intends to seek "full justice" for the victims and their families.

Frein was convicted of first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, attempted murder, terrorism and two weapons of mass destruction charges related to the small bombs he left in the woods during the manhunt.

The verdict was expected after prosecutors presented more than 500 pieces of evidence tying Frein to the ambush. His DNA was found on the trigger of the murder weapon, and police recovered several handwritten notebook pages at Frein's campsite in which he described the attack and his subsequent escape into the woods in chilling detail.

He also wrote a letter to his parents advocating revolution as a way to "get us back the liberties we once had."

The defense said Frein deserved to live despite his "dastardly acts," as his lawyer put it.

"We would like to present Eric in the most sympathetic light that we can," said lawyer William Ruzzo. "The way they villainized him, we can't make him a holy man, but we're trying to make him a man."

He insisted Frein has an "inner core of goodness."

Although jurors could sentence him to death, the state has a moratorium on executions under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. The state's last execution was in 1999, and it has executed only three people since the U.S. Supreme Court restored the death penalty in 1976.

Police linked Frein to the ambush after a man walking his dog discovered his partly submerged SUV three days later in a swamp a few miles from the shooting scene. Inside, investigators found shell casings matching those found at the barracks and Frein's driver's license.

The discovery sparked a manhunt that involved 1,000 law enforcement officials and spanned more than 300 square miles. The dragnet shut down schools and roads and hurt businesses in the mountainous region, which leans heavily on tourism.

At times, police ordered residents to stay inside or prevented them from returning home as they pursued tips and supposed sightings, while trick-or-treating was canceled.

An earlier story appears below.

(Milford) -- The widow of a slain Pennsylvania State Police trooper has described the toll his death has taken on her and their two young sons.

Tiffany Dickson testified Thursday at a hearing to determine whether her husband's killer will be sentenced to death or to life in prison without parole.

Eric Frein was convicted of capital murder, terrorism and other offenses in the 2014 ambush that killed Corporal Bryon Dickson II and critically wounded a second trooper.

Tiffany Dickson says her oldest son still wakes up at night screaming and has anger issues, while her youngest is defiant and hates school. She says she's sad and lonely and won't be able to grow old with her husband.

A prosecutor urged jurors to sentence Frein to death. His lawyer asked for mercy.

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