Gwenda Lisman’s relationship with her adult son was tumultuous, according to authorities.
James Dibble, 29, was a periodic resident at his mother’s rural Mud Road home in the town of Ephratah and had been staying there lately. Lisman, 57, at times argued with her son, but the verbal bouts heard by neighbors never drew police attention.
Then at some point before late Monday morning, investigators believe, one of their arguments turned deadly. First responders called to the residence by a concerned friend of Lisman’s found her body inside with a gunshot wound to the head.
Now Dibble, who has served time in the Fulton County Jail, is being accused of a single count of second-degree murder in connection with his mother’s death — a felony charge that could land him up to life in prison. Authorities believe he fired the fatal shot from a .22-caliber rifle his mother had borrowed from a neighbor to ward off rodents from her garden.
“We are continuing to gather evidence in the case and we’re continuing to ask the public who may have any knowledge of the family relationship to contact us,” Sheriff Thomas Lorey said during a news conference Tuesday.
Lorey and District Attorney Louise Sira were summoned to the home at 11:19 a.m. Monday and quickly called on state police investigators for assistance. Lorey said the home was unkempt. “It didn’t appear to be a normal, well-kept house,” he said, declining to elaborate.
Authorities labeled Dibble a person of interest early in the investigation and put an all-points bulletin out on a green 1997 Mercedes Benz registered to his mother. About a half-hour after seeking the Mercedes, state troopers patrolling the village of Mayfield stopped Dibble driving the vehicle on School Street and took him into custody without incident.
Dibble, whose case was assigned to public defender Gerard McAuliffe Jr., refused to talk with investigators, Lorey said. He was arraigned before Fulton County Judge Richard Giardino early Tuesday morning and sent to the Fulton County Jail without bail.
Lorey and Sira declined to discuss many details of the case aside from the basic facts. State police investigators remained at the home Tuesday collecting evidence.
“At this point, this investigation is in its infancy,” Sira said following the news conference.
Lorey said Lisman worked at the Lexington Center in Johnstown, but he was unsure whether she was still employed there at the time of her death. Locally, he said, she was well-liked.
“She was at least well-known in the neighborhood and very well-liked,” he said.
Dibble has a long history of legal problems in Fulton County, including at least two stints in the local jail. Lorey said one stint ended recently and Dibble is currently facing a felony charge of grand larceny from Broadalbin.
Dibble’s criminal record includes a 2003 conviction in which he admitted to burglarizing a home in Mayfield and was sentenced to up to three years in prison. While awaiting sentencing, he was caught with a small, red balloon full of marijuana; he later admitted to one count of attempted promotion of prison contraband and was given a 16-month-to-four-year term running concurrent with his burglary conviction.
McAuliffe did not return a call for comment Tuesday. Dibble is scheduled to reappear in county court on Friday.
Lorey said Dibble could face additional charges when the case is presented to a grand jury. Though he declined to discuss what investigators found in Lisman’s home, he was confident about the case against her son.
“We have a great deal of evidence,” he said.