Ex-girlfriend says Dibble admitted to ‘accidental’ shooting

JOHNSTOWN – James Dibble’s ex-girlfriend testified in Fulton County Court on Thursday that while Dibble was incarcerated he admitted on two separate occasions that he accidentally shot his mother.

Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira called Dibble’s ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Valachovic of Broadalbin, to the stand Thursday. She said she was in a relationship with Dibble for about 11 years and they had a child together, but about four years ago they separated after they “grew apart.”

Dibble, 30, was arraigned on charges of second-degree murder and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, two counts of fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, all felonies; and fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, a misdemeanor. He was indicted by a county grand jury Sept. 19.

Police arrested Dibble July 2 in the death of Gwenda L. Lisman, 58, who was found July 1 at 11:19 a.m. by a neighbor at Lisman’s home at 227 Mud Road, authorities said.

Authorities said Dibble shot his mother in the head with a .22-caliber single-shot rifle she borrowed from a neighbor to deal with a rodent problem in her garden.

Valachovic testified she received a phone call from Dibble July 2 while he was in jail, but once she heard his voice she hung up. However, she said, later that week he called once again and asked questions such as what the media was saying about him and whether their daughter went to his mother’s funeral.

Valachovic said when she asked Dibble what was wrong with him, he stated it was “an accident when he was cleaning the gun.”

On Nov. 23, she went to the jail to try to get Dibble to sign papers to change their child’s last name, and once again asked what happened to his mother in July.

This time, she said, Dibble told her that he couldn’t talk about the specifics of the case, but when he was going to kill rodents outside he slammed the rifle on the table and it went off.

Defense Attorney Robert Abdella during cross-examination asked Valachovic if the investigator she contacted after the first call from Dibble suggested she talk to him to see if he would say something incriminating. However, Valachovic said she was just checking to make sure it was OK to even speak to Dibble, and the investigator didn’t tell her to try to get information from him to benefit the investigation.

Later in the day, Rensselaer County Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Sikirica testified Lisman died from two fatal gunshot wounds to the back of the head. He said he does autopsies for Fulton County on an as-needed basis, such as for cases that include forensic aspects.

He explained autopsy photos, telling the jury the first shot that hit Lisman was from close range because it left “powder tattooing,” which is caused by the barrel being close to the head when fired. He said the second shot was from a farther away.

Abdella during cross-examination questioned the date of death on the autopsy report written as July 1, although the time of death was deemed undetermined. However, during re-examination Sira had Sikirica clarify that the pronouncement of death was when the body was found, not actually when she died.

“She didn’t die at that time, she was pronounced dead at that time,” Sikirica said.

Sira also called Trooper Ronald Dacre to the stand. Dacre apprehended Dibble at the Mayfield Marina near his mother’s green Mercedes on the evening of July 1.

He testified he was aware of the vehicle because a be-on-the-lookout report was issued earlier that day, although he wasn’t aware why Dibble was wanted for questioning.

Dacre said he saw a man walking near the vehicle and asked him multiple times to stop and come talk to him. He said the male provided a false name and stated he didn’t have identification. However, when Dacre asked him if he was James Dibble, he told him yes and turned around, placing his hands behind his back.

Dacre testified Dibble had a camouflage bag with him. When Dacre asked if Dibble had anything sharp on him, Dibble said needles were in the bag, but Dacre never checked the bag.

Abdella asked Dacre whether the Mercedes was hidden in any way; if Dibble had fishing supplies on him while at the marina or if he had blood anywhere on him. Dacre said the car wasn’t hidden; Dibble did have fishing items with him and no blood was found on him when he placed him in his vehicle.

Sira later in the afternoon called retired Fulton County Sheriff’s Office Senior Investigator Martin Kested to the stand. Kested worked the case in July and attempted to interview Dibble back at the State Police barracks in Mayfield after he was brought in for questioning by Dacre.

Kested testified when he and state police investigators John Wagner and Joseph Ruggeri read Dibble his Miranda rights, Dibble stated he wanted an attorney present for any questioning, so he remained in the interview room for four hours handcuffed to a ring on the wall.

Kested said during that time, one of the three investigators was watching over Dibble to make sure he was safe while in custody, but eventually Dibble started asking police questions.

Kested said Dibble asked him who found his mother. When Kested replied it was a neighbor, Dibble stated they would’ve had to break in because “he locked the house before he left.”

He said he once again told Dibble if he wanted to talk he could provide an attorney’s name and he would get him there, but he remained silent.

“He was questioning what we knew, and I wasn’t going to get involved with that,” Kested said.

Kested said at 11:43 p.m., Dibble stated public defender Gerard McAuliffe would represent him, and McAuliffe was called to the station.

All three investigators would later testify Dibble appeared to be tired and spaced out, and he became confused at times.

Dibble was arraigned around 2:20 a.m. July 2 before Fulton County Judge Richard C. Giardino, and sent to the Fulton County Jail without bail.

During cross-examination, Abdella asked Kested why Dibble was brought to the state police barracks when it was the Sheriff Department’s investigation, highlighting that no interview cameras are available there. Kested said it was Sheriff Thomas Lorey’s decision.

He also asked if Kested was aware of or reviewed a DNA report dated Sept. 9, 2013, and Kested said he didn’t.

Abdella also questioned the department’s decision to leave Dibble handcuffed to a wall for multiple hours with investigators, and asked if it was an attempt to get Dibble to say something incriminating. Kested replied it was “strictly for safety.”

Both Investigators Wagner and Ruggeri said at one point Dibble asked for a cigarette because he used heroin an hour before and it would help him come down.

Abdella asked Ruggeri if the symptoms he and other investigators noticed Dibble having was consistent with heroin, and he said it was.

“There is a usual falling-out period and I believe that is where he was,” Ruggeri said.

Sira previously said Dibble killed his mother for financial and material gain.

The trail will continue with more testimony today.