Slain Woman's Son Weeps Before Jury -- Relatives Of Blackwell Victims Testify

EVERETT - The 18-year-old son of a woman slain inside the King County Courthouse last year wept on the witness stand this morning in describing how his mother's murder has changed his life.

"She was a very caring, a very loving mother to me and a very loving wife to my dad," Philbert Dizon said of 46-year-old Phoebe Dizon.

Philbert Dizon, who will graduate from Shorecrest High School in Shoreline on Sunday, told a Snohomish County Superior Court jury how difficult it has been for his father, two younger brothers and other family members since his mother's death.

"It doesn't even feel it's a family without Mom . . . my home doesn't feel like home anymore."

Phoebe Dizon and her friends Susana Blackwell, 25, and Veronica Laureta Johnson, 42, were gunned down March 2, 1995, as the women sat outside a courtroom, awaiting final arguments in Blackwell's divorce trial.

Blackwell's husband, Timothy Blackwell, was convicted last week of three counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the shootings. He also was found guilty of manslaughter for killing his wife's unborn baby.

The same Snohomish County Superior Court jury now must decide if Blackwell is to die or to spend his life in prison.

This second part of the trial - the penalty phase - started this morning and is expected to last up to two weeks.

Prosecutors, who began their short case this morning, called several witnesses.

In addition to Philbert Dizon, Joseph Laureta told the court how his sister, Veronica Laureta Johnson, was a vital force in her family.

Johnson was the first family member to come to this country from the Philippines and supported her mother and siblings both financially and emotionally, Laureta said.

"Losing her really hurts," he said.

The prosecutors also called Seattle Detective Eugene Ramirez, who told the jury that Timothy Blackwell was convicted in 1975 in federal court in Nebraska for possession of forged and counterfeit reserve notes.

Prosecutors are still trying to bring Susana Blackwell's mother from the Philippines to testify and will learn by tonight whether she will come to the United States.

If she can come, testimony will resume on Monday. If she can't, the penalty phase will continue tomorrow.

During the penalty phase, Blackwell's defense lawyers will call witnesses to testify about Blackwell's life and character. Their goal is to convince the jury that sufficient mitigating circumstances exist to spare their client's life.

The penalty phase also allows prosecutors to call a witness to speak on behalf of each victim - telling the jury what kind of person the victim was, describing her aspirations and reporting how her death has affected family members and loved ones.

The murder trial was moved to Snohomish County because the King County Courthouse was the scene of the slayings.