Day of high emotion as surviving trooper testifies
Also, forensics experts testify: Shooter was in a tree when firing, remorseful letter meant for parents
By Marilyn Rosenthal
MILFORD — Trooper Alex Douglass, a one time a marathon runner and CrossFit athlete, limped to the witness stand on Monday.
He described the pain he endured on the night of the Sept. 12, 2014, shooting ambush, and still endures. He has undergone 18 surgeries, two rehab facilities, and a hip replacement. He may still need more surgery.
He's weathered infections accompanied by 104 degree fever that caused bile to escape from his wounds. He must wear a foot brace to keep from falling.
Douglass was before his injuries a picture of fitness. After the attack, his weight plummeted from 185 pounds to 135 pounds. He lost muscle in his upper body and lower limbs, and suffered injury to major organs.
"I was basically skin and bones," he told the jury.
Eric Matthew Frein is being tried for murder and attempted murder in the ambush. His face showed no emotion as Douglass told his story. He looked straight ahead at nothing.
Douglass is angry.
"I knew that some coward or cowards were shooting at me, so I crawled to the left side of the lobby," he told the jury.
Since that night, he's had to learn to live life over again. He learned how to feed himself, how to cook, how to drive.
He spoke in candid detail about his many intestinal injuries. Faces in the jury and audience contorted in sympathy.
Douglass described the severe burning pain he felt in his rectum.
"How did it feel?" he said. "Like the worst pain you could imagine. It was like your whole body was on fire. Like a serrated knife sticking in your rectum and twisting."
At that point, his eyes filled with tears, which he held back.
'Dear Mom and Dad'Also on this day of high emotion was the reading of a letter allegedly found on Frein's computer and meant for his parents:
Dear Mom and Dad,
Our nation is far from what it was and what it should be.
And the time seems to be right for a spark to ignite a fire in the hearts of men.
What I have done has not been done before and it felt like it was worth a try.
Tension is high for the moment. If I die, I'd like to be buried in a wooden casket — closer to earth from where I came.
I do not have a death wish, but I know the odds. If you are reading this, you know that I was unsuccessful.
I am not a good son. I have squandered many things that have been given to me.
I love you. Please forgive me for all my many faults.
Also light a candle for me at the Russian or Greek Orthodox church in Stroudsburg from time to time.
Testimony was presented by Derek Fozard, a computer forensics expert with the Pennsylvania State Police, and Special Agent Frederick Dressler, a firearms expert with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Fozard said he found the letter and other electronic evidence on computers seized at the home Frein shared with his parents and at the scene of Frein's capture at a defunct airport.
Defense Attorney Michael Weinstein said that even though the url (web address) to each website showed up on Frein's computers, the evidence presented doesn't show whether the websites were actually opened.
Fozard presented Frein's alleged internet searches on the day of the shooting, which included such search terms as:
Understanding police procedures.
Can cell phones be tracked with the batteries removed?
How are manhunts conducted?
How to escape a manhunt.
After the shooting, search terms included the following:
Wanted Poster — Eric Frein
Eric Frein Support
In his testimony, Dressler said he knew precisely which shots fired that night did which damage. He could tell based on the sounds of the shots, the calibrations of the scope measured by a laser camera, and the camera inside the Blooming Grove barracks.
The first shot, which hit Cpl. Byron Dickson, was the deadliest, he said. The shooter was sitting up in a tree, and the shot was clean and very accurate.
The second shot hit a dead tree and didn't exit the tree.
The third shot quieted Dickson by hitting him in the neck area. Dickson did not survive.
The fourth shot hit Trooper Douglass, entering his left hip, ripping through his major intestines, and exiting through his right hip, Dressler said.
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, 2014.
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.
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