Pennsylvania survivalist convicted of murdering state trooper
A Pennsylvania jury convicted survivalist Eric Frein on Wednesday of murdering a state trooper in a 2014 sniper attack that triggered a massive manhunt.
Frein, 33, of Canadensis, Pennsylvania, faces the death penalty for first-degree murder of a law-enforcement officer.
The same jury that convicted him after four hours of deliberations will reconvene on Thursday to hear evidence in the penalty phase of trial at Pike County Courthouse.
“A terrorist with murder in his heart, a plan in his mind and a rifle in his hand, who slithered through the woods,” was how Frein was described by Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin in his closing argument.
Frein, who listened impassively, is a survivalist, a person skilled in outdoor living who aims to survive a catastrophe or dramatic event such as nuclear war or revolution.
Frein ambushed state police during a shift change at the Blooming Grove barracks in 2014, killing Corporal Bryon Dickson II, 38, Tonkin said. Frein then waited to pick off anyone who tried to help Dickson, Tonkin said.
Trooper Alex Douglass, 34, was shot and critically wounded as he rushed to Dickson’s side.
The jury found Frein guilty of Dickson’s murder, the attempted murder of Douglass, and other charges including terrorism.
Among the evidence the jury weighed was a letter that prosecutors said showed he harbored anti-government views and the shooting was aimed at sparking a “revolution.”
“Passing through the crucible of another revolution can get us back the liberties we once had,” said the letter, which prosecutors said Frein wrote to his parents while on the run.
Evidence also included a notebook that prosecutors said Frein kept in which he detailed the night of the ambush.
“Got a shot and took it,” Tonkin said, reading from the book. He added, “Some of the most chilling words you will ever hear.”
Defense lawyer Michael Weinstein did not call any witnesses and in a 10-minute closing argument told jurors what happened that night was a “tragedy of monumental proportions.”
After the shooting, Frein eluded a 48-day manhunt through the dense forests of the Pocono Mountains, about 100 miles (160 km) north of Philadelphia.
The $11 million manhunt, which landed him on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most wanted list and put the community on edge for weeks, ended when he was captured by U.S. marshals outside an abandoned airplane hangar near Tannersville, Pennsylvania.
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Alistair Bell)