MILFORD, Pa. (AP) — With his victim’s two young sons in court for the first time, a gunman who shot and killed a Pennsylvania trooper was formally sentenced to death Thursday, one day after a jury determined he should receive a lethal injection for the ambush at a state police barracks.
Eric Frein traded a suit and tie for prison garb, and his hands and feet were shackled as a judge pronounced what he called an “entirely warranted” sentence on the convicted murderer and terrorist.
Frein killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson, a 38-year-old Marine veteran, and left Trooper Alex Douglass permanently disabled in the Sept. 12, 2014 attack at the Blooming Grove barracks. He eluded capture for 48 days, with state police spending more than $11 million on a manhunt that spanned hundreds of square miles of the rugged Pocono Mountains.
The jurors, who were brought in from the Philadelphia suburbs due to intensive news coverage of the case in the Poconos, attended Thursday’s hearing as spectators. Douglass chatted with them privately for several minutes before Frein was sentenced, doling out handshakes and hugs.
Dickson’s sons, Bryon III and Adam, were in the gallery as sheriff’s deputies led Frein into court.
“You ready?” said their mother, Tiffany Dickson. “He’s right there,” she said, pointing to Frein as he walked past. “That’s what he looks like, OK?”
Tiffany Dickson later showed Pike County Judge Gregory Chelak a slideshow of her life with the slain trooper, set to the couple’s wedding song. Chelak also heard from Dickson’s mother, Douglass and state police officials including Commissioner Tyree Blocker.
The judge said he hoped the intensive media attention on Frein would wane.
“It is the hope of this court that the story of Eric Frein ends today,” Chelak said, going on to call Dickson a “selfless servant” and “shining example of bravery and courage.” He had similarly laudatory things to say about Douglass.
Given a chance to address the court, Frein shook his head and said nothing.
About 20 uniformed troopers representing barracks throughout northeastern Pennsylvania stood in unison as he was led out, destined for Pennsylvania’s death row.
Prosecutors said Frein, 33, hoped to start an uprising against the government when he ambushed the two troopers during a late-night shift change.
Prosecutors portrayed him as a remorseless killer who attacked troopers at random in hopes of fomenting rebellion. The defense had asked the jury to spare Frein’s life, arguing he’d been raised in a dysfunctional home. The jurors rejected his upbringing as a mitigating factor that would point them toward a sentence of life in prison without parole.
Frein’s lawyers promised to tie up his case in appeals.
There are 171 people on death row in Pennsylvania, which hasn’t carried out an execution since 1999 and only three since the U.S. Supreme Court restored the death penalty more than 40 years ago. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has imposed a statewide moratorium on executions.
Wolf’s spokesman, J.J. Abbott, said the governor’s decision to issue “temporary reprieves” while a state Senate task force reviews the death penalty in Pennsylvania “is in no way an expression of sympathy for the guilty on death row.”
“Governor Wolf believes Eric Frein is a monster who targeted State Police members and that justice has been served by a jury of his peers,” Abbott told The Associated Press.