GARDEN GROVE — Mary Dallies-Carpenter watched in silence Wednesday as the man suspected of killing her husband four years ago shuffled to a police car on his way to jail.
She hugged the law officers who had been Howard E. Dallies Jr.'s friends and colleagues.
But even as suspect John J.C. Stephens walked by her in handcuffs, Dallies' widow said she realized she will never escape completely the terror and loneliness that have been her companions since the 36-year-old police officer was gunned down and left to die in the street.
"Today there is relief. There is somewhat of a satisfaction. There is somewhat of a closure," she said. "But it won't ever go away. It won't ever bring Howard back. It won't ever make it better."
Widowed at 28 and left to raise her 4- and 7-year-old sons alone, she has remarried and has added the last name of her new husband, Todd Carpenter, to her own. But even in her new life, she said, much is the same.
Her current husband, like Dallies, is a Garden Grove police officer. He, too, works all hours of the day and night. And besides the children left fatherless in 1993, she has two more sons with Carpenter.
She said her decision to remarry was made only after she struggled with the possibility that she might one day face another tragedy.
"Could I go through it again? I hope I don't have to," she said.
Dallies-Carpenter, who was an Irvine police dispatcher at the time of her husband's death, said the years since have been tumultuous--moments of deep grief interspersed with times of joy and new love.
To get on with her life, she moved out of the Garden Grove townhouse she had shared with Dallies. She gave away the flowers and plants sent to her in sympathy by dozens of friends and strangers.
But she still harbors anger for the person who left her a widow. "What right did he have? What right?" she asked.
For more than six months now, Dallies-Carpenter and other family members have known that police were planning to arrest Stephens.
On Wednesday, family members listened as police told news crews they believe Stephens shot Dallies in the head and abdomen, then sped away on a stolen motorcycle.
The slain officer's sister, 22-year-old Carrie Dallies-Yopp, said, "Today is a good day. It's like a missing piece. We've just gone through every day thinking, will they be caught? Will they be brought to justice?"
Howard Dallies mother, Judy Maassen, 61, said the emotion of watching Stephens being arrested was overwhelming.
"It's like something is lifted from my heart," she said. "I'm just so grateful they finally have a suspect in custody."
Standing on a grassy rise behind five stones erected in memory of Dallies and four other Garden Grove police officers slain since 1959, Dallies' stepmother, Rose, broke down in tears.
Three months ago, she buried her husband, Howard Dallies Sr.
"My husband wondered until near the end of his life who killed his son," Rose Dallies said. "But in the end he knew. Those last months the police were able to assure him that they really did have the person who killed his boy. He was real pleased about that.
"He said, 'You know, I'll probably see him in heaven.' "