MILFORD, Pa. - The mother of a slain Pennsylvania State Police trooper said Friday she doesn't hate her son's killer, but wants him held accountable.
Darla Dickson testified at the penalty phase of Eric Frein's trial. She was one of several family members and close friends who filled in details about the life of Cpl. Bryon Dickson II, who was shot and killed in a September 2014 ambush at the police barracks.
A second trooper was left disabled in the attack that prosecutors say was motivated by Frein's animus toward the government. He spent 48 days on the run before U.S. marshals captured him.
Dickson, 38, was a fun-loving prankster and devoted husband and father, his mother told the jury, which had already convicted Frein of first-degree murder, terrorism and other offenses and must now decide whether to sentence him to death or to life without parole.
"I was proud to be his mom. So very proud of him," Darla Dickson said.
Jurors learned how Dickson loved tormenting his mother by bringing bugs into the house and how he left for Marine boot camp as the proverbial boy, persevered through a severe ankle injury and, on graduation day, "there was a man," she said.
They learned how, as a young state police trooper, Dickson got a commendation for saving the life of a woman who swallowed a large number of pills after her husband fatally shot her son. And how he was a skilled woodworker who made Christmas ornaments and toys for his two sons.
Frein, in contrast, is a "coward who apparently can't remember why he killed Bryon," Dickson's father, also named Bryon Dickson, testified.
In a videotaped police interview on the night of his arrest, Frein acknowledged shooting Dickson and Trooper Alex Douglass with a sniper's rifle, but hedged when interrogators pressed him for a motive. Other evidence pointed to Frein's anti-government views. He wrote a letter to his parents during the manhunt in which he advocated revolution to "get us back the liberties we once had."
His lawyers, trying to keep him off death row, will present the bulk of their case next week.
Dickson's close friend, Sgt. Derek Felsman, who eulogized the slain trooper at his funeral, repeatedly glared at Frein as Felsman spoke Friday in glowing terms of his fallen comrade.
Darla Dickson said her 10-year-old grandson, Bryon III, recently said, "Grandma, I hate Eric Frein. Do you hate him?"
She said she forgives the gunman, but seeks justice for her son.
"I don't hate anyone. I don't hate Eric Frein. That does not mean I don't hold him accountable."