October 31, 2014 / 12:15 AM / 5 years ago

Suspect in Pennsylvania police ambush denied bail

MILFORD Pa. (Reuters) - A bruised and gaunt Eric Frein, captured after a seven-week manhunt and wearing the handcuffs of the Pennsylvania trooper he is accused of killing, was held without bail on Friday after his first court appearance on first-degree murder and other charges.

The 31-year-old survivalist, who prosecutors say will face the death penalty if convicted, was caught on Thursday after a methodical seven-week search using a grid system and hundreds of law enforcement officers.

A detachment of U.S. marshals found Frein outside an abandoned airplane hanger in Tannersville, Pennsylvania, about 100 miles north of Philadelphia, and near the heart of the area where authorities focused their 48-day manhunt.

On Friday morning, a massive police presence surrounded Frein as he was escorted in and out of the Pike County Courthouse for a preliminary arraignment on a first-degree murder charge and one count of homicide of a police officer, among other charges.

Frein arrived at court in the cruiser and handcuffs used by Corporal Bryon Dickson, 38, whom he is accused of killing in a sniper attack on Sept. 12 outside a Pennsylvania state police barracks in Blooming Grove. Frein also is charged with wounding Trooper Alex Douglass, 31, in the shooting.

Wearing an orange jumpsuit with his face looking battered, Frein was asked by the judge whether he understood the charges.

“Yes, I do,” Frein said in a strong voice.

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

Police said Frein’s bruises, including an oozing gash across the bridge of his nose, were from injuries suffered while he was at large.

Pike County District Attorney Raymond Tonkin said a preliminary hearing was scheduled for Nov. 12. No plea was entered at the hearing on Friday.

The heavy police presence and the aggressive tactics employed during the manhunt rattled many residents of the normally peaceful area of northeastern Pennsylvania, even as the shootings appalled the community. His arrest brought a palpable sense of relief to picturesque area.

In Barrett Township, which includes the village of Canadensis, where Frein lived with his parents, the town’s Halloween parade had been canceled but authorities lifted a ban on trick-or-treating on Friday.

At the Village Crafts store on Route 390, shop owner Peggy Fylstra said the manhunt hurt sales at her store and tourism in general. She said tourists had been afraid to visit that part of the Pocono Mountains, popular with “leaf peepers” who come to the area to see the vibrant fall colors.

“A lot of people canceled reservations,” she said.

When she heard on the news Thursday night that Frein had been captured, she said she felt “like I hit the lottery.”

Slideshow (10 Images)

State Police Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens estimated a cost of $10 million for the manhunt, which has involved hundreds of officers from state, local and federal agencies, using helicopters, armored vehicles and sophisticated tracking technology.

Frein, who was on the FBI’s most wanted list, surrendered without incident, police said. Two firearms were found in the hangar but Frein was carrying no weapons.

Police have said the suspect, an expert marksman whose hobbies included dressing like a Serbian soldier in a war reenactment group, held a longstanding grudge against law enforcement and was not targeting any individual officer.

Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Doina Chiacu and Bill Trott

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