Two months after Eric Frein's arrest, a central question remains unclear:

Did he confess?

If so, to what?

Frein, who eluded state police and federal agents for weeks in the Poconos, acknowledged to detectives on the night of his October arrest that he shot two state troopers, according to an affidavit filed in his case.

But Frein's attorney said he still hasn't determined whether the statements were legally obtained and recorded, and if they amount to a confession.

Some answers could come Monday, when Frein is due to return to the Pike County courthouse for the first time since his arrest. At a preliminary hearing, prosecutors are expected to call witnesses, present evidence, and try to convince a judge that the 31-year-old Canadensis man should be held for trial on murder, terrorism, and other charges.

The hearing could provide the most information to date in a case that drew national attention as Frein eluded capture for 48 days in the woods of Pike and Monroe Counties.

It is also just a first step in court proceedings for a death-penalty case that could ultimately move from Pike County. Frein's court-appointed lawyers said they want to explore whether the publicity and the impact of the massive manhunt on affected Pocono communities would affect their client's ability to get a fair trial from jurors there.

Frein is accused of carrying out the Sept. 12 ambush at the Blooming Grove state police barracks that killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounded Trooper Alex Douglass.

More than 1,000 law enforcement personnel participated at some point in the ensuing manhunt, which cost the state police at least $11 million.

At the same time, the FBI had as many as 200 people working on the search, said Edward Hanko, special agent in charge of the Philadelphia division.

During a conversation with detectives on the night of Oct. 30, Frein "acknowledged that he shot troopers because he wanted to make a change [in government] and that the murder of the trooper was an assassination," according to the affidavit filed in the case.

Frein's attorneys have entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf and said they were only beginning to explore the evidence in the case, including the alleged confession.

"I'm going to have to hear whether it's recorded or just an oral confession, under what circumstances it was given, whether it was constitutionally obtained," said Michael Weinstein, one of Frein's lawyers.

Also at issue could be whether Frein was denied access to an attorney on the night police said he confessed to the shootings.

Frein's family retained attorney Jim Swetz, who said he worked to ensure that Frein's right to counsel was honored.

But Swetz, who is no longer involved in the case, was not permitted to see Frein when he arrived at the state police barracks in Blooming Grove that night, according to Frein's attorneys.

"It's absolutely something we're going to look into," said lawyer William Ruzzo, another member of Frein's defense team.

The affidavit notes that before the interview, detectives informed Frein of his constitutional right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer, though he apparently did neither.

Pike County District Attorney Raymond J. Tonkin said the police do not have a duty to notify defendants if an attorney is seeking to speak with them.

That issue and those details are unlikely to come up at Monday's hearing, said David Rudovsky, a noted defense and civil rights lawyer and professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

"I would expect very little of that to actually be introduced into evidence," Rudovsky said.

Prosecutors need only to prove at a preliminary hearing that a murder occurred, he said, and that it's "at least probable" that Frein was the murderer.

Other evidence against Frein presented in police affidavits includes journal entries found among his belongings, which police say describe the attack at the police barracks.

Frein also faces charges of possessing explosive devices that police say they found in the woods during the manhunt, along with other items that matched his DNA.

Charges of terrorism were added after his arrest, based on statements he allegedly made to the police claiming the shooting was a political assassination.

In an e-mail, Tonkin declined to share what evidence he will highlight at the hearing but said prosecutors will call "a number of witnesses."

In a December letter to Judge Shannon Muir opposing a delay in the preliminary hearing, Tonkin had noted that one witness he subpoenaed was traveling from Louisiana.

Muir delayed the hearing in December after Robert Bernathy, Pike County's chief public defender, withdrew as one of Frein's attorneys. Bernathy cited "both professional and personal conflicts of interest" in his request to be removed from the case.

Ruzzo, a Luzerne County lawyer who has experience defending capital murder cases, was appointed to replace Bernathy.

Weinstein, the other lawyer, declined to comment on what Frein has shared with his attorneys.

He has been held without bail at the Pike County Correctional Facility since his arrest.

Weinstein said Frein's family has visited him there.

610-313-8116 @Lmccrystal