Frein Found Guilty Of Trooper Murder, Other Charges
MILFORD — A Pike county jury found Eric Matthew Frein guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday in the sniper shooting of state trooper Cpl. Bryon Dickson. The trial now moves to the penalty phase where the jury must decide on a sentence of death or life in prison without parole. The trial resumed Thursday afternoon with the defense expected to call character witnesses.
Frein was convicted of all 12 counts against him including assault of a law enforcement officer, one count of terrorism for committing a violent offense with the intent to affect the conduct of government and two counts of weapons of mass destruction for possessing and/or manufacturing two bombs. Summing up an almost two-hour closing argument Wednesday morning, Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin called on the jury to find the defendant guilty of “each and every crime charged.”
Supporting the terrorism charge were Frein’s written statements that the shootings were motivated by a desire to make a change in government. Tonkin told the jury near the end of his summation, “We do not change government here in America with bullets, we do it with votes.”
Leading off his closing argument, the district attorney described Frein, 31, as “a terrorist with murder in his heart, a plan in his mind, and a rifle in his hands, slithering through the woods under the cover of darkness on Sept. 12, 2014.”
“That murderer and terrorist sits right over there,” Tonkin told the jury, while turning and pointing to Frein.
“The absolute, most chilling thing was that having shot one individual … he waits one minute and 27 seconds to shoot a responder,” Tonkin said.
“One minute and 27 seconds doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but in the middle of the night, in the woods … waiting to shoot someone, it’s a lifetime.”
Tonkin reviewed the cache of evidence, some 503 exhibits in all, and the testimony of dozens of witnesses to show that Frein meticulously planned and carried on the attacks that fatally wounded Dickson and shattered the lower body of fellow trooper Alex Douglass, leaving him with lifelong impairments and pain. Frein researched tactics on line, checked off an Army sniper manual to fill out his attack kit and sighted in a Russian riflescope to “hunt humans,” as Tonkin put it.
Extensive forensic evidence included Frein’s DNA found on a rifle trigger and at his campsites and ballistics matching his rifle to bullet casings found near the shooting scene. Referring to a videotaped confession in which Frein expressed concern for Dickson’s children and whether other children might find one of his weapons stashes, Tonkin asked, “Is he sorry – or sorry he got caught?”
In an entry from Frein’s diary that federal marshals found in his final hideout, Frein implied police were being heavy-handed by banning trick-or-treating in the search area right before Halloween. Frein was captured the day before Halloween.
“He had no concern for kids,” Tonkin said, adding that Frein was the cause of the 48-day manhunt, which resulted in school closings, restriction of people’s movements, shutdown of hunting season in many areas and heavy losses of revenue from tourism, the mainstay of the Pocono economy.