Surviving trooper suffered 'highest level of trauma,' surgeon says

Also on Thursday: Prosecution's experts say handwriting and notebook belong to Eric Frein

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  • Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin arrives at the county courthouse (Photo by Preston Ehlers)

  • Trooper Alex Douglass

The case in outline

Eric Matthew Frein, 33, of Canadensis, Pa., is being tried for the murder of Corporal Bryon K. Dickson II and critical injury of Trooper Alex T. Douglass in a shooting ambush at the Pennsylvania State Police barracks at Blooming Grove that occurred late on Friday, Sept. 12.
After a massive manhunt through the woods of Pike and Monroe Counties, Frein was captured by U.S. Marshals on Oct. 30, near an abandoned airport hangar at Birchwood-Pocono Airpark in the Tannersville area.
The capital trial began April 4 at the Pike County Courthouse in Milford with a jury selected from Chester County, near Philadelphia.
Frein is charged with:
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.
County District Attorney Raymond Tonkin is prosecuting the case. The defense attorneys are Michael Weinstein and William Ruzzo.

By Marilyn Rosenthal

— The trauma surgeon said his team worked through the night to save the trooper's life.

"This was a level 1 trauma — the highest level of trauma," Dr. Mohammad Sideiqui told the court Thursday as he described Trooper Alex Douglass' condition.

Dr. Sideiqui was on call at Geisinger Medical Center in Danbury, Pa., on the night of Sept. 12, 2014, when Douglass arrived by helicopter. He had just been shot in an ambush at the Blooming Grove state police barracks that killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson II.

Douglass was in shock, Dr. Sideiqui said. He had two gunshot wounds, to his right and left hips. His internal organs — pelvis, intestines, colon, and belly — were severely damaged, and several blood vessels were torn. His rectum was shattered beyond repair, requiring a colostomy. His pelvic bone was broken.

The quickly assembled team performed three procedures that night, Dr. Sideiqui said. Further surgery was needed to repair the massive damage. Douglass spend 33 days in rehab before he was even able to get his hips repaired in an orthopedic hospital in New York City, he said.

Douglass will be a witness next week, probably on Monday.

Eric Frein is being tried for murder, attempted murder, terrorism, and other charges in connection with the ambush. He has pleaded not guilty.

Experts testifyThe prosecution on Thursday called several expert witnesses to testify about the physical evidence presented that day. They said the handwritten pages presented as evidence earlier in the week belonged to Frein. And a forensics scientist said items found in a jeep allegedly driven by Frein on the night of the ambush contained his DNA.

Handwriting — Handwriting analyst Cpl. Mark Gardner compared three handwritten pages found at the scene of Frein's capture to known samples of Frein's handwriting. Using PowerPoint, he compared the shape, slant, and height of the "y," "a," "n," and other letters to show they were written by the same person.

Defense Attorney William Ruzzo challenged the accuracy of handwriting analysis. "Would you agree with me that it is not an exact science?" he asked.

Gardner responded, "It is exact enough."

Ruzzo said there were some differences between the questioned documents and the known documents. Gardner said these differences fall within the parameters of normal variation.

Notebook — Julia Barker, a U.S. Secret Service document analyst, examined the notebook and three loose pages found at the scene of capture. The pages came from the notebook, she said.

She submitted the pages to an optical exam that uses UV light and a chemical analysis.

Defense Attorney Michael Weinstein said Barker never determined the manufacturer of the notebook or compared the three pages with other notebooks.

Jeep — Forensics scientist Lauren Force, a member of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Forensic Services, tested items found in the jeep allegedly driven by Frein, including a water bottle, cigarette butt, and sweatshirt. She also tested a rifle, magazine, and eight rounds of bullets.

The DNA on these items belong solely to Frein, she said. The chance of error is 1 in 8.4 quintillion.

"A quintillion is a number with 18 zeros," Force said. Only 8.4 zeros are needed to put the matter beyond a shadow of a doubt, she said.

Some items, such as sweatshirt's right cuff, contained the DNA of three other contributors who came into contact with Frein, she said.

"There was a lot of connection of the dots today," said District Attorney Ray Tonkin, who is leading the prosecution. "There will be a little bit more next week, but as you can see the way the case lays out, there's a lot of evidence to be placed before the jury and then let them know what's important."

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