Eric Frein was convicted Wednesday in death of trooper
April 20, 2017 6:10 AM
Rich Schultz/Associated Press
In this Oct. 31, 2014 file photo Eric Frein is escorted by police into the Pike County Courthouse for his arraignment in Milford, Pa.
By Laurie Mason Schroeder / (Allentown) Morning Call
MILFORD, Pa. — As photos of her husband flashed on a large video screen in a Pike County courtroom Thursday, Tiffany Dickson talked about her life before and after Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson was murdered by Eric Frein.
“There’s no more Tiffany Dickson,” she said, wiping away tears. “I’m ‘the widow.’ Everyone loves that word, ‘widow.’
Tiffany Dickson was the first witness called by the prosecution at Mr. Frein’s death penalty hearing. A jury on Wednesday found him guilty of a dozen charges, including first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer and terrorism for his Sept. 12, 2014, ambush at the Blooming Grove state police barracks.
Lawyers are trying to sway the jury for, or against, sentencing Mr. Frein to death. He also could be sentenced to life in prison.
Though his lawyers will present their case later, most likely next week, on Thursday they gave jurors a glimpse into Mr. Frein’s state of mind at the time of the killing. They described him as a “loner” and “geeky guy” who was enthralled by his father’s rants about police overreach.
“Eric tried to emulate his dad,” defense attorney William Ruzzo told the jury. “But he didn’t have the intellect, the ability or the backbone.”
Tiffany Dickson was on the stand for more than an hour, and she described her husband of 10 years as a “great teammate” and devoted father to their two sons, who were 5 and 7 when Bryon Dickson was murdered.
In testimony that drew tears from people in both the courtroom audience and jury box, Tiffany Dickson talked about telling her sons that their father was dead, and described the struggles the boys have had in the two years leading up to Mr. Frein’s trial. Her older son, she said, had to be heavily medicated due to his grief.
“He’s so angry, he’s so sad. He can’t eat, he can’t sleep,” she said, sobbing. “He screams that he wants to die, he wants to die to be with daddy.”
Tiffany Dickson told the jury that she has many friends and family to help her, and that the state police have been supportive, but at home she’s overwhelmed without her husband.
“It’s sad and lonely,” she told the jury. “There’s nobody to hold me, no one to help me. I don’t have a break. I’m just really tired. And I don’t get to grow old with him.”
During Mr. Frein’s 10-day trial, Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin argued that Mr. Frein, 33, is a terrorist who was hoping to spark a revolution by assassinating police officers. After killing Cpl. Dickson and critically wounding trooper Alex Douglass, Mr. Frein hid in the Pocono woods, prompting a 48-day manhunt involving more than 1,000 law enforcement officers.
Mr. Tonkin has listed several aggravating factors — details that elevate a murder to a capital case — against Mr. Frein, including that Cpl. Dickson was murdered in the line of duty, and that Mr. Frein put others at risk of death when he opened fire at the barracks.
The defense is expected to counter with testimony from Mr. Frein’s family members, and with expert witnesses who will try to show that mitigating factors are present in Mr. Frein’s case, such as extreme emotional or mental disturbance when he committed the crime.
After hearing all the witnesses, a process that court officials say could take several days, jurors will be asked to weigh the aggravating and mitigating factors.