Defendant in sniper attack on Pennsylvania police goes to court

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 05, 2015 2:47 PM

By Joe McDonald

MILFORD, Pa. (Reuters) - The survivalist accused of shooting two Pennsylvania state troopers, killing one of them, was escorted into court on Monday, apparently healed from the facial wounds police said he suffered while eluding them on a weeks-long manhunt.

Flanked by state troopers, Eric Frein, his hair neatly combed and wearing wire-frame glasses, emerged from a police cruiser and into the Pike County Courthouse for a preliminary hearing on charges of first-degree murder, terrorism and other crimes. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Frein, 31, looked far different from the battered and bruised prisoner who arrived at the same courthouse after his arrest on Oct. 30, following a 48-day, $11 million manhunt in thick woods in the Pocono Mountains.

Frein was captured outside an abandoned airplane hangar near Tannersville, Pennsylvania, about 100 miles north of Philadelphia.

He was charged in the Sept. 12 sniper attack on Corporal Bryon Dickson, 38, who was killed, and Trooper Alex Douglass, then 31, who was wounded, outside a Pennsylvania State Police barracks in nearby Blooming Grove during a late night shift change.

    Michael Weinstein, one of Frein's lawyers, said he did not know how many witnesses prosecutors intended to call at the preliminary hearing and knew nothing about one witness who prosecutors have said is coming from Louisiana.

    Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin said he believed the hearing will take one day.

    Frein, who lived with his parents in Canadensis in nearby Barrett Township, was known to spend long periods in the woods, police said.

    In a letter to his parents found in the hangar, Frein said he was upset with where the country was headed and wanted to "wake people up," though he never directly referred to the attack on the troopers, according to an amended complaint.

    During the manhunt, searchers also discovered a journal, apparently written by Frein, that coldly described the shooting that night, police said.

   Frein had spent years planning the attack, but accidentally drove his Jeep into a pond, police said. The Jeep, found three days later by a neighbor, and the items inside helped police to identify Frein as the suspect.

    Frein's driver's license, Social Security card and shell casings from the sniper's rifle allegedly used in the attack were found inside the Jeep, police said.

    The manhunt involved helicopters, airplanes and armored vehicles and drew national attention, with the FBI placing Frein on its Most Wanted list.

(Reporting by Joe McDonald; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg, Editing by Richard Chang and Eric Beech)