Suspected cop-killer Frein held without bail; D.A. to seek death penalty

Police Barracks Shooting
Eric Matthew Frein in the photo from his wanted poster (left) and his police mugshot.

HAWLEY, Pa. - Eric Frein, the captured suspected cop-killer who for six weeks was the target of a Poconos manhunt involving more than 1,000 law enforcement officers, on Friday was ordered held without bail on murder charges.

Frein, his hair slicked back and sporting a goatee and bruises on the cheeks, nose, and eyes, answered politely as Pike County District Judge Shannon Muir asked if he understood the charges against him and the purpose of the arraignment in the packed, one-room 19th Century courthouse.

To taunts of "you're a coward," and "rot in hell," from a crowd of about 150, after the proceeding he was led out by state police from the front steps and marched to the rear of the building. He was taken to the Pike County Correctional Facility.

During the arraignment, with Frein's hands bound in the handcuffs that once belonged to slain State Police Cpl. Bryon Dickson, a state trooper turned the pages of the complaint, which Frein appeared to read intensely.

Frein was charged with murder, attempted murder, and possession of weapons of mass destruction and taken to the Pike County Correctional Facility.

"We can now go back to being our small town," said Barrett Township Supervisor Ralph Megliola. And it is game-on for trick-or-treating, which had been canceled due to the manhunt.

At a news conference, State Police Col. George Bivens said that no one tip led to Frein's capture, just "ongoing pressure from law enforcement."

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 12. Pike County District Attorney Raymond Tonkin said he would seek the death penalty.

Frein surrendered Thursday after being discovered in an open field near an abandoned airplane hangar, officials said. Bivens said that weapons were recovered in the hangar but that it had not been determined whether one of them was used in the shootings.

Investigators believe there may be weapons or explosives still hidden in nearby woods, a law enforcement source said, and offficials continued to search the area on Friday.

Officials said Frein was taken into custody without incident, that no shots were fired, and that the facial bruises were evident before he was arrested.

U.S. marshals had spotted a man they thought was Frein at Birchwood Pocono Air Park in Tannersville, Pa., according to State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan. The marshals ordered him to get on the ground, and he acknowledged he was Frein.

At a news conference Thursday night, Gov. Corbett thanked investigators for their hard work over the last several weeks.

"I particularly want to thank the residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania . . . whose patience, whose tolerance, and whose perseverance have been a tremendous support and lift to the law enforcement personnel," Corbett said. "You have demonstrated the very best of Pennsylvania."

Speaking to the families of the victims - Dickson, who was killed, and Trooper Alex Douglass, who was wounded - Corbett added: "Let me assure you: Justice will be served."

Sam Rabadi of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Frein "has been stripped of his guns, his bombs, and now his freedom."

A photo of Frein that surfaced after his capture showed him sitting next to a trooper in the back of a car with long dark hair, a thin beard, and what appeared to be a bloodied cut across the bridge of his nose.

The image was in stark contrast to the photos that for weeks had circulated on billboards, the Internet, and the FBI's Most Wanted List as agents combed the dense Pocono woods: the 31-year-old self-described survivalist, clean-shaven and smiling, and wearing European military garb.

Police say Frein, a fan of Cold War military reenactments, shot Dickson and Douglass in a Sept. 12 ambush outside the state police barracks in Blooming Grove.

Three days after the shooting, investigators found a Jeep stuck in the mud, and documents inside that identified Frein as the driver.

Thus began a laborious but tightly focused search that involved investigators from across the country, cost several million dollars, and disrupted daily routines and crippled the tourist business during the peak fall-foliage season. Schools were intermittently closed, and residents became accustomed to regular roadblocks and SWAT team personnel tiptoeing through their neighborhoods.

The manhunt included officers from state and local police, the FBI, U.S. marshals, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and other agencies. Tactical teams from other states rotated in and out of the Poconos.

More than once, police said they had found evidence that suggested they were closing in Frein: Serbian cigarettes he was said to favor, two pipe bombs, an AK-47 assault rifle, clothing, and other clues that he wasn't far away. They said he survived on tuna and ramen noodles, and at least once turned on his cellphone, a misstep that enabled them to tighten their search radius to a five-square-mile area of Pike and Monroe Counties.

But despite multiple sightings, sometimes even by officers at close range, Frein was able to slip back into the woods - a terrain he had studied while growing up in Canadensis. The woods are so dense in some areas that officers tracking him could not see one another from 10 or 15 feet away, police said, and they had to sling their rifles over their shoulders to crawl through the underbrush.

The attack and retreat, police said, had been planned for years. In Frein's bedroom, they said, they found a book on sniper training. They cited other evidence that he had searched the Internet in 2012 and 2013 for information on police raids, cellphone tracking, and manhunt tactics.

Two weeks ago, officials said they had recovered journal pages handwritten by Frein at a campsite that they said reinforced their resolve to find him. "I will tell you, after reading this cold-blooded and absolutely chilling account, I can only describe Eric Frein's actions as pure evil," said Bivens.

The journal, they said, offered the most compelling evidence to date of Frein's premeditation.

It did not say why he targeted the barracks, they said.

But the writings suggested that Frein did not know the troopers he attacked.

lmccrystal@phillynews.com

610-313-8116

@Lmccrystal

Inquirer staff writers Ben Finley and Aubrey Whelan contributed to this article.