Commonwealth v. Frein: A cast of characters

Here are some of the people connected to the high-profile trooper ambush case to be tried in Milford next month

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  • Photo provided by AP Eric Frein

  • Photo provided by The Morning Call Attorney William Ruzzo

  • Photo provided by weinstein & Zimmerman Attorney Michael Weinstein

  • Photo provided by AP Eric Frein

  • Photo provided by AP Eric Frein

  • Photo Provided Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin

  • Photo by Preston Ehrler Tiffany Dickson

  • Photo provided by The pennsylvania state police Cpl. Bryon Dickson

  • Photo provided by The pennsylvania state police Tpr. Alex Douglass

By Erika Norton

The trial of Eric Frein, the Canadensis man who led authorities on a 48-day manhunt through the woods of Pike and Monroe Counties after allegedly killing a state police officer and seriously injuring another, is set to start 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 4, at the Pike County Courthouse on Broad Street in Milford.

These are some of the people connected with the case:

ProsecutorPike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin

Ray Tonkin is the main prosecutor in the Commonwealth vs. Frein. He is seeking the death penalty in the case. However, Pennsylvania currently has a moratorium on executions while the governor awaits the results of a legislative commission's report.

Tonkin was first elected District Attorney in 2007, and was an assistant district attorney and a first assistant district attorney for nearly a decade before that. He was raised in Pike County, and started his professional career as a police officer, graduating from the University of Scranton and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Since taking office, Tonkin has obtained seven murder convictions at trial.

DefendantEric Matthew Frein

Frein, 33, of Canadensis in Monroe County, is accused of killing Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Bryon K. Dickson II of Dunmore and seriously wounding Pennsylvania State Trooper Alex T. Douglass of Olyphant during an ambush on Sept. 12, 2014, outside the Blooming Grove barracks. Frein was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted List during a 48-day manhunt stretching across Pike and Monroe counties involving hundreds of local, state, and federal officials. Authorities finally captured Frein on Oct. 30, 2014. The charges against him include:

Murder in the first degree

Criminal attempt to commit murder in the first degree

Murder of a law enforcement officer in the first degree

Criminal attempt to commit murder of a law enforcement officer in the first degree

Assault of a law enforcement officer

Terrorism (two counts), Weapons of mass destruction (two counts)

Discharging a firearm into an occupied structure

Recklessly endangering another person

On Jan. 29, 2015, Frein pleaded not guilty to all charges.

According to the FBI, Frein was a heavy smoker, a weapons enthusiast, and a survivalist. He attended the Pocono Mountain School District in Monroe County and for a time East Stroudsburg University and Northampton Community College. He also belonged to a military simulation unit based in eastern Pennsylvania whose members role-play soldiers from Cold War-era eastern Europe, according to the state police.

In 2004, he was charged with burglary and grand larceny after police accused him of stealing items from vendors at a World War II re-enactment in Watkins Glen in upstate New York. He failed to show for his trial, and was arrested in Pennsylvania as a fugitive from justice, according to the Schuyler County Sheriff's Department.

Defense attorneysMichael Weinstein and William Ruzzo

Michael Weinstein, a long-time criminal defense attorney and a criminal capital defender, is co-counsel for Eric Frein. He served as the Pike County District Attorney from 1980 to 1988, and has also been general counsel to the Delaware Valley School District for the last 15 years. Currently he practices law at his firm, Weinstein & Zimmerman, on Broad Street in Milford. He is also a member of the Milford Lodge and the Milford Lions Club, and a founding member of the United Way of Pike County.

In 2010, Weinstein defended one of two drug dealers charged with kidnapping and fatally shooting a third dealer whose body was found in a wooded area of Porter Township in 2007. Both defendants were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Both Weinstein and Frein’s co-counsel, William Ruzzo, worked together in 2013 representing Rockne Newell, a man charged with fatally shooting three people at a Ross Township supervisors' meeting. Newell pleaded guilty in May 2015 to three counts of first-degree murder and other charges and was sentenced to life in prison.

William Ruzzo, of Kingston, Pa., is serving as co-counsel for Eric Frein. He has defended more than 30 death penalty cases and retired from the Luzerne County Public Defender’s Office in 2013 after working there since 1988.

He worked on the high-profile case of George Banks, who shot and killed 13 people on Sept. 25, 1982, in Wilkes-Barre and Jenkins Township. Banks was sentenced to death but was later declared too mentally ill to execute. During his January 2005 trial, Ruzzo represented John Michaels, a man charged with setting a blaze that killed a woman. Michaels was acquitted of all charges and released from the county prison. In 2011, he represented Lamont Cherry, who was convicted of third-degree murder in the May 2009 death of a one-year-old girl and later sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison.

VictimsCorporal Bryon K. Dickson II and Trooper Alex T. Douglass

Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Bryon Dickson, 38, of Dunmore was shot and killed from an ambush at the Blooming Grove Barracks in Pike County at approximately 11 p.m.. on Sept. 12, 2014. Eric Frein is charged with his murder. Dickson is survived by his wife, Tiffany; his two sons, Bryon III and Adam; and his parents, Bryon and Darla Dickson.

Dickson served as U.S. Marine and on June 11, 2007, he enlisted in the Pennsylvania State Police. After graduation from the Academy, he was assigned to Troop N, Fern Ridge, on Dec. 21, 2007. On July 20, 2013, he was promoted to Corporal and assigned to Troop K, Philadelphia. He transferred to Troop R, Blooming Grove on June 21, 2014. He served as a Patrol Unit Supervisor at both Stations after his promotion.

Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Alex T. Douglass, 33, of Olyphant was critically wounded after an ambush at the Blooming Grove Barracks in Pike County on Sept. 12, 2014. He was allegedly wounded by the defendant, Eric Frein.

After the shooting, Douglass spent a month in treatment at Geisinger Community Medical Center for a shot wound in his pelvis. After countless hours of physical therapy and over 16 surgeries, including a hip replacement, Douglass is slowly recovering and hopes to get back to work. He was awarded the Pennsylvania State Police version of the Purple Heart and, in 2015, completed the New York City Marathon in two hours and 33 minutes using a hand-powered, three-wheeled cycle. He was Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R-Pa.) guest at President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union address.

Douglass has also reportedly filed a lawsuit against Eric Frein.

Victim's wifeTiffany Dickson of Dunmore

Tiffany Dickson is the widow of slain Pennsylvania State Police officer, Corporal Bryon Dickson. She is the mother of the couple’s two sons, Bryon III and Adam.

Dickson is reportedly suing Eric Frein, the man accused of shooting and killi

Earlier in this year, Pike County Judge Gregory Chelak granted a prosecutor's request to bar Eric Frein from presenting evidence of insanity or "mental infirmity" at his upcoming trial. ng her husband in an ambush on Sept. 12, 2014.

Co-workerNicole Palmer

Nicole Palmer was the dispatcher on duty at the time of the ambush at the Blooming Grove Barracks in Pike County on Sept. 12, 2014. She is reported to have run out of the building to help Dickson in the line of fire. She tried to drag him inside. After Douglass also fell, after a gunshot, she and several troopers again helped drag both police officers in.

Palmer is reportedly suing Frein and his parents, Eugene and Deborah Frein, for the physical and emotional stress she suffered while cowering under the desk to make calls for help from other police officers, seriously affecting her ability to work and make a living.

She also recently filed two civil lawsuits against nine individual police officers at the Blooming Grove barracks where the shooting took place, as well as the Pennsylvania State Police itself, for alleged intimidation and sexual and other harassment during her time working in the barracks.

JuryThe final selection of 12 jurors from Chester County, in the Philadelphia area, was completed last week. The defense attorneys had wanted a change of venue, saying Frein could not get a fair trial in Pike County because of intense media coverage of the case locally. The judge did not agree but did grant a change of venire, which allowed the jury to be picked from out of the area.

JudgePike County Court of Common Pleas Judge Gregory Chelak

Earlier in this year, Pike County Judge Gregory Chelak granted a prosecutor's request to bar Eric Frein from presenting evidence of insanity or "mental infirmity" at his upcoming trial. He also allowed jury selection from out of the county but did not allow the trial to be moved out of Pike.

Editor's note: This article has been updated from the original to correct Nicole Palmer's status. She is not an enlisted member (corporal/trooper) of the PA State Police. She is a civilian administrator, not a trooper, as was mistakenly stated in the original. The Courier regrets the error.

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