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'Angry' now, says trooper's widow

Survivalist waits to receive sentence for 2014 barracks ambush

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Photographs by AP/RICH SCHULTZ

Eric Frein is escorted by police out of the Pike County Courthouse on Oct. 31, 2014, after his arraignment in Milford, Pa.

MILFORD, Pa. -- 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 went to the aid of his mortally wounded comrade and suffers from a range of health problems. Douglass told the jurors he might have to have one of his legs amputated below the knee.

In her testimony, Tiffany Dickson recalled how she spoke to her husband on the phone about 30 minutes before he was killed.

"Kiss the boys for me. I love you," she said he told her.

Less than two hours later, two troopers and a priest showed up at her door.

After Dickson's killing, the family's older son, who had just turned 8, couldn't eat or sleep, and he started biting himself and wetting the bed, Tiffany Dickson testified.

"He screamed, 'I just want to die. I want to see Daddy. Can't we just die together?'" Dickson said, adding that 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 took off 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 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 detail.

Frein's lawyer, William Ruzzo, asked jurors to show mercy. He described Frein as a loner and "geeky guy" who tried to emulate his father, a retired major with a doctorate in microbiology, but could never measure up. He said Frein and his father shared a mistrust of authority.

Frein wrote a letter to his parents while on the run, advocating revolution as a way to "get us back the liberties we once had."

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 Frein's 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.

A Section on 04/21/2017

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