MILFORD, Pa. (KDKA/AP) – As accused cop killer Eric Frein sits in the Pike County Jail without bail following his Thursday capture, the parents of the trooper Frein is accused of killing are expressing relief about his apprehension.
Darla Dickson, Cpl. Bryon Dickson’s mother, said, “Your hope is that justice will prevail, and it did.”
As for the hundreds of law enforcement officers, and volunteers who have been searching the heavily wooded area in northeast Pennsylvania the last seven weeks, Mrs. Dickson said, “To them, our hearts say, with great love, ‘Thank you, more than you’ll ever know.’ They are family.”
For 48 days, Frein was everywhere and nowhere, supposedly sighted again and again, only to melt back into the woods in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse. So on Friday, as state police paraded the gaunt and battered-looking former fugitive in front of a courthouse, residents were relieved to see him in the flesh.
It was proof that the harrowing seven-week manhunt in the Pocono Mountains for the suspected cop-killer was finally over, and things could start getting back to normal.
“It’s just been nerve-wracking, not knowing where he was, what his next step was, what he was going to do,” said Jody Welsh.
Onlookers shouted “Are you sorry?” and “Why did you do it?” as the survivalist and marksman was led from court the morning after his capture near an abandoned hangar. Hundreds of local, state and federal law officers had taken part in the manhunt.
Frein, 31, had a gash on the bridge of his nose and a scrape over his left eye as he listened to charges that he killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson and critically wounded Trooper Alex Douglass in a sniper attack outside their state police barracks Sept. 12. U.S. marshals who took him into custody said he suffered the injuries while they had him down on the pavement.
He did not have a lawyer and was not asked to enter a plea to first-degree murder and other charges, including possession of two pipe bombs discovered during the search. He remained jailed without bail. A preliminary hearing was set for Nov. 12.
Pike County District Attorney Raymond Tonkin told reporters that Frein’s capture Thursday evening brought a measure of comfort to the region after an “unimaginable loss of unspeakable proportions.”
“We have now started to find the answers that the community desired in this case,” Tonkin said.
The district attorney has said he plans to seek the death penalty for Frein.
Cpl. Dickson’s mother, Darla, said, ‘I do not ask for death for [Frein]. I want the judicial system to bring him to a place of accountability.”
There has not been an execution in Pennsylvania since 1999, when convicted serial killer Gary Heidnik was put to death.
Troopers questioned Frein, but authorities would not disclose what he told them or discuss a possible motive. Authorities have said Frein had expressed anti-law enforcement views online and to people who knew him.
Joe Fagan was the first in line to enter the courtroom.
“To be honest, I just wanted to see what evil looked like,” he said. “He had zero emotion.”
Until his capture, Frein had some people beginning to wonder if law enforcement was up to the task, given the rugged terrain and the evident skill with which he eluded dogs, thermal-imaging cameras and teams of heavily armed officers.
Sporadic sightings of the fugitive kept entire communities on edge: A woman claimed to have seen him outside a high school. A local cop spotted a mysterious man in green, prompting an intensive search that came up empty. There were other sightings in which Frein supposedly made himself visible to law enforcement, then vanished.
“To see him just walk past me was just a sigh of relief that he’s not in the woods,” said Welsh, who made sure she was on hand Friday as state police led Frein from his arraignment. “That everybody can continue on with their lives.”
In fact, with Frein behind bars, plans for trick-or-treating in Barrett Township were back on, and hunting and trapping were given the go-ahead to resume.
A team of federal marshals stumbled across Frein during a sweep about 30 miles from the barracks where he allegedly opened fire, authorities said. He had no gun on him, but had weapons stashed in the hangar, state police said.
The marshals who captured Frein said he had a “defeated” look on his face when they took him into custody.
A three-man team had spotted Frein and sneaked up on him, taking him by surprise. Scott Malkowski, who helped make the arrest, said Frein made no attempt to flee and didn’t put up a fight.
“He had nowhere to go. There is nothing he could’ve done,” Malkowski said, adding: “From what I saw, he felt defeated because we’d won. We’d defeated him.”
After the marshals turned him over to state police, Frein was placed in Dickson’s handcuffs and driven in Dickson’s squad car to the Blooming Grove barracks.
Authorities said they were trying to reconstruct his time on the run. They believe Frein broke into cabins and other places for food and shelter, and he evidently found time to shave – he had a neatly trimmed goatee when he was caught.
State police Lt. Col George Bivens put the cost of the manhunt at about $10 million.
With the search over, officials began calculating the economic toll to motels, restaurants, shops and other businesses that lost money as tourists avoided the search area and locals stayed home.
Monroe County asked business owners to fill out a “snapshot of their losses” – a possible prelude to a disaster declaration and state and federal aid.
Peggy Fylstra, whose crafts and florist shop in the village of Mountainhome suffered during the manhunt, said it “felt like I hit the lottery” when Frein was caught. “That’s what an impact it’s made on business owners.”
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