April 19, 2017 / 1:57 PM / 3 months ago

Pennsylvania survivalist convicted of murdering state trooper

3 Min Read

FILE PHOTO -- Eric Matthew Frein exits the Pike County Courthouse with police officers after an arraignment in Milford, Pennsylvania, October 31, 2014.Mark Makela/File Photo

MILFORD, Pa. (Reuters) - 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, 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.

The defense team did not dispute the charges and did not call any witnesses, but it will present a case in the penalty phase in an attempt to save Frein's life, defense attorney William Ruzzo told reporters.

"We can't make him a holy man but we will try to make him a man," Ruzzo said.

Frein, who showed no emotion as the verdict was read, is a survivalist, a person skilled in outdoor living who aims to survive a catastrophe or dramatic event such as nuclear war or revolution.

Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin described Frein during closing arguments as "a terrorist with murder in his heart, a plan in his mind and a rifle in his hand, who slithered through the woods."

Frein ambushed state police during a shift change at the Blooming Grove barracks in 2014, killing Corporal Bryon Dickson II, 38. 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 aid.

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.

He also kept notes detailing the ambush, prosecutors said.

"Got a shot and took it," Tonkin said, reading from the notebook. He added, "Some of the most chilling words you will ever hear."

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 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

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