MILFORD, Pa. - For nearly 20 minutes, the packed courtroom sat in near silence, transfixed by the grainy images on three small screens.

The video had been recorded by surveillance cameras inside and outside the state police barracks at Blooming Grove the night of Sept. 12, as troopers began what was supposed to be a routine shift change.

One shows Cpl. Bryon Dickson cracking open the door to leave the building and falling almost instantly from a bullet fired out of the darkness.

Moments later, Trooper Alex Douglass climbs toward the barracks from a lower parking lot. As he moves toward Dickson, Douglass is also cut down. He manages to drag himself into the barracks and across the lobby, where he collapses facedown until a colleague comes to drag him farther inside. Then three more troopers emerge and retrieve Dickson's body.

As the video played Monday before a judge and a trooper narrated the action from the witness stand, some of Dickson's and Douglass' friends and family dabbed at their eyes with tissues. Eric Frein, who prosecutors say carried out the ambush before escaping into the woods for nearly seven weeks, stared at the screen, but showed no obvious reaction.

The video was perhaps the most compelling piece of evidence in a daylong preliminary hearing on murder and terrorism charges against 31-year-old Frein.

When it ended, District Judge Shannon Muir ordered him held for a trial, which could end with a death sentence.

Standing on the steps of the small brick courthouse after the hearing, Pike County District Attorney Raymond J. Tonkin said it was "way too early" to discuss a plea deal. Tonkin said he must notify the court if he plans to seek the death penalty by Frein's next hearing, which is likely to be scheduled in the coming weeks.

Michael Weinstein, one of Frein's court-appointed attorneys, said the hearing unfolded as he expected.

Evidence described by 10 witnesses Monday included a letter that Frein allegedly wrote to his parents during the manhunt that became the basis for terrorism charges against him. Last accessed on a computer on Oct. 6 - weeks after the shooting and weeks before Frein's capture - the letter stated that "only passing through the crucible of another revolution can get us back the liberties we once had," according to Cpl. Derek Fozard, who discovered the document and read it aloud in court testimony.

In the letter, Frein told his parents that he was not a good son, Fozard said. The Canadensis man asked them to bury him in a wooden coffin and light candles for him at a local church if he died.

"I do not have a death wish, but I know the odds," he allegedly wrote. "I tried my best to do this thing without getting identified, but if you are reading this then I was not successful."

The letter was found among Frein's belongings at the end of a 48-day manhunt in Pike and Monroe Counties.

Deputy U.S. Marshal John Schaaf described that day. He told the judge that he had been searching for Frein in the abandoned Birchwood Resort in Tannersville on Oct. 30, when he and two other marshals crossed a bridge to approach an old airplane hangar.

One of Schaaf's colleagues said, "There's a man in black walking through the field," he said, and they ordered the man to put up his hands and kneel.

Schaaf's description was an anticlimactic end to a lengthy manhunt that disrupted a region for weeks and attracted national attention. Frein identified himself and was cooperative throughout his arrest, the marshal testified.

The marshals at first thought Frein had a trip wire on him that could be connected to explosive devices, Schaaf said. But Frein was armed with only a pocketknife, and the green wire Schaaf had spotted on Frein's body was part of his suspenders.

Schaaf said he stood guard over Frein as other marshals secured the area.

"At one point he turned to me and said, 'Can I tell you where the guns are in the hangar?' " Schaaf said. "He said: 'I want to tell you this to make sure you guys find it, because I don't want a kid to find the gun.' "

A trooper testified that investigators later found two rifles on the balcony of the cluttered hangar, and a pistol next to a mattress and Frein's laptop on the lower level. They also found a map of the area around the Blooming Grove barracks, hand-drawn on a sheet of yellow notebook paper.

Other items linking Frein to the shootings included journal entries found in a trash bag at a campsite in Canadensis.

Three small white pages, apparently torn from a notebook, were crumpled at the bottom of a trash bag that investigators recovered in September, Trooper James Hitchcock said.

From the handwritten pages, Hitchcock read a description of the Blooming Grove shootings and the shooters' retreat into the woods: "Friday September 12, got a shot around 11 pm and took it."

Investigators also found two pipe bombs at the campsite with the trash. They were found in a backpack containing Frein's checkbook, another trooper testified.

The hearing included no mention of a possible confession by Frein; an affidavit filed in the case that he acknowledged to detectives on the night of his arrest that he shot two troopers.

Clean-shaven and with a short haircut, Frein remained silent during the nearly five-hour court hearing, and his attorneys raised few objections. Frein's family members have visited him at the Pike County Correctional Facility, but did not attend Monday's hearing, Weinstein said.

Four state troopers escorted Frein in and out of the courtroom at the beginning and end of the hearing and during three breaks in the proceedings. Each time, he passed members of Dickson's family in the front row, but remained expressionless and avoided eye contact.

610-313-8116 @LMcCrystal