TRIAL AND TERROR

"That night someone hopped over the fence and wrote in chalk the word 'DIE' in three places. He also poured granuline chloride to make the message 'SAM.'

"On Friday, someone wrote the message in the backyard: 'Does D.S. remember Porter? All good mothers must die early.' Also written down were the dates of the deaths of Anna Marie Shoen, Eva Shoen and October 1994, the date for Mari's death.

"I confirmed with Sam Shoen that the initials D.S. in the message stood for Dennis Saban, whose house was set afire by an arsonist named Steve Porter more than ten years ago. The night before Porter was to testify in court, he was murdered in the bathroom of a downtown bar called Lil's Convention Center.

"Early that evening, Mari got another call. This time he said, 'You're the next Steve Porter. It'll be painless.' Later, someone jimmied out two windows in the house.

"Saturday, I rushed to my office to get some things I needed for trial on Monday. While Mari was in the back of the house, someone got in through the front and unscrewed the deadbolt locks, and all the phone jacks in the house except one went dead.

"Sunday afternoon, my wife's notebook was thrown over the fence and more threats on Mari's life were written. A final line boasted: 'You know I can fucking do it!'

"In the early evening, the final phone jack in the house went dead. The Scottsdale police came to take another report.

"On Monday, we discovered that someone had tried to break in by . . . kicking in a back patio screen.

"The following day, Tuesday, smoke was detected in the master bedroom. Someone had stuffed wadded-up paper in the window which had been boarded up to protect ourselves against thrown rocks. Another police report was filed.

"It came to a conclusion on Wednesday, October 5th," Bisbee recalls, now speaking with great weariness.

"I was in chambers with Judge Dunevant and the other lawyers in the case, preparing for final instructions to the jury. A secretary came in insisting that I must answer a call. I knew at once it must be serious. It was. My house was on fire.

"I left at once and it took me a half-hour to reach my house on McCormick Ranch. The firemen had arrived in minutes, but the roof went up, and there was nothing they could do but protect other houses in the neighborhood.

"But Mari and Matthew and Michael were safe. Whoever had set the fire had done so by setting the trees ablaze that were next to the house. The blaze quickly spread to the eaves, and nothing could be done to stop it. We lost everything except some children's toys. But Mari was safe."

The jury never learned anything about these events, and U-Haul officials denied any connection to the fire.

"Police haven't even questioned anyone at U-Haul," said Richard Amoroso, an attorney in the U-Haul legal department. Last week, U-Haul offered a $200,000 reward to anyone who could provide information about the harassment of Steve and Mari Bisbee.

But Bisbee never faltered. He won his big case. After deliberating only a few hours, the jury awarded Dr. Sam Shoen and his father, L.S. Shoen, $1.4 billion.

Bisbee and his wife and children are now living in an apartment. They have an unlisted phone number. It will take months for the house to be rebuilt.

Since the trial, there have been no more threats.

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