JOHNSTOWN One sister remembered Wendy Lisman as someone who was “amazing, funny, beautiful, talented.”
Another remembered Lisman as “beautiful, warm and giving.”
Lisman’s best friend, Kathy Licciardi, remembered that giving woman as someone who realized her son James Dibble’s many faults, but still loved him and believed she could still help him onto the right path.
“Wendy saw something in you we could not, God rest her soul,” Licciardi told Dibble Thursday morning as he was sentenced for killing Lisman. “That is the definition of a mother, James: someone who loves you unconditionally until she takes her last breath — and she proved that definition true until you took her last breath.”
The women spoke Thursday before Fulton County Court Judge Polly Hoye sentenced the 29-year-old Dibble to 25 years to life in prison.
The sentencing came after Dibble was found guilty in Fulton County Court in April, the jury finding he used a rifle to kill Lisman in June 2013 at her Mud Road home in Ephratah. He shot her twice in the back of the head.
Hoye handed down the sentence as part of a late agreement in the case. Dibble had faced the possibility of more time, but accepted the 25-years-to-life sentence in exchange for waiving his right to appeal.
District Attorney Louise Sira said the agreement was important to Lisman’s family and friends because it means Dibble’s sentence — the maximum allowed for second-degree murder — is final. There will be no appeals.
Dibble killed his mother after she opened her home to her troubled son, prosecutors said. Lisman had taken Dibble in after his most recent jail stint, but Dibble refused to find steady work and continued to use drugs. Her gold jewelry also went missing.
She reported the items stolen and confronted Dibble. That same weekend, she ordered Dibble to leave, even starting to pack his things. Those who knew her described it as a final act of tough love.
At that point, Dibble grabbed his mother’s borrowed .22-caliber rifle, tracked her to her bedroom and shot her once in the back of the head at point-blank range. He then moved her body a short distance, reloaded and shot her again, killing her.
He then pawned more of her belongings, went to Amsterdam and purchased heroin, prosecutors said.
In court Thursday, neither Dibble nor his attorney had anything to say after reaching the sentencing agreement.
When Dibble told Hoye that he did not have a statement for the court, someone in the gallery whispered “coward” loud enough to be heard across the room.
Hoye sentenced Dibble after driving home the heinousness of the act. Not only did he shoot and kill someone, firing twice into the back of the victim’s head, “but it was your mother,” Hoye said.
“I do not see any chance that you’re likely to be rehabilitated.”
The judge noted defendants in other cases often come from backgrounds where their parents were poor examples who didn’t care about their children.
“That doesn’t apply to you,” Hoye told Dibble. “Your mother apparently had done everything that she could for you throughout your life trying to prevent bad things from happening. That’s one excuse you don’t have.”
Dibble appeared largely emotionless throughout the proceedings, even as his aunts Sandra Orzel and Denice Barrett, along with Licciardi, spoke.
Orzel told the court that having known Dibble his entire life, she truly believes he was born “with an evil spirit.” That he killed his own mother, she said, shows he would kill again.
“His crime was unconscionable,” Orzel told the court. “He has demonstrated throughout his life that he has no regard for others. Moreover, James has shown himself to be a stone-cold killer.”
Barrett traced Dibble’s life from a troubled youth to a troubled adulthood.
“We will miss her greatly, and she was loved by all,” Barrett told the court. “There are no words that could express anything how we feel. We all miss her so, so much.”
“James,” Barrett said to conclude her remarks, “remember, she was the only one who loved you. Good riddance.”