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Pennsylvania man who eluded manhunt goes on trial in trooper ambush

By Joe McDonald

MILFORD, Pa. (Reuters) - Pennsylvania prosecutors showed jurors graphic images of a police officer moments after he was fatally shot in a 2014 sniper attack, during opening statements on Tuesday in the murder trial of survivalist Eric Frein.

Frein, 33, of Canadensis, Pennsylvania, could receive the death penalty if he is convicted of the top charge against him, the murder of a law-enforcement officer, Corporal Bryan Dickson II. He is also charged with terrorism and the attempted murder of trooper Alex Douglass, who was wounded in the attack.

During the trial, which began on Tuesday in Pike County Courthouse in Milford, prosecutors showed photographs of Dickson's bloodied body and read notes they said Frein wrote about the attack.

"He dropped ... I was surprised at how quick," said one of the notes, read by Assistant District Attorney Bruce DeSarro.

Defense attorney Michael Weinstein, in brief opening remarks, reminded jurors that Frein deserved the presumption of innocence.

Frein, who pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, sat quietly in the courtroom wearing a coat and tie. The former Eagle Scout will not testify at his own trial, Weinstein said.

Prosecutors charged that Frein planned the Sept. 12, 2014, late-night ambush in the parking lot of the rural Blooming Grove state police barracks, because he wanted to spark a "revolution." The suspect had harbored anti-government views for years, they said.

After the shooting, Frein, an experienced outdoorsman, eluded an intensive, 48-day manhunt through the dense forests of the Pocono Mountains, about 100 miles north of Philadelphia, in the northeast corner of the state, prosecutors said.

Frein lived at his family's home not far from the barracks where the ambush took place. After the ambush, he fled into the surrounding mountains, authorities say.

His ability to elude the $11 million manhunt put him on the FBI's most wanted list and left the community on edge for weeks.

He was captured by U.S. marshals outside an abandoned airplane hangar in a former resort near Tannersville, Pennsylvania.

Frein, who took part in Cold War-era battle reenactments, studied the Russian and Serbian languages and was a member of the shooting team at Pocono High school.

His trial is expected to last five to eight weeks.

(Writing by Barbara Goldberg and Laila Kearney; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Steve Orlofsky)