09/20/2014 11:43 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Eric Frein's Neighbors: 'We're Prisoners In Our Own Homes'


CANADENSIS, Pa. -- Jill Nobles is a single mother living in the backwoods of Pennsylvania, seven miles from the home of alleged cop killer Eric Frein. Less than two weeks ago, she felt safe -- now she clutches her pepper spray when she leaves the house, unsure if cops will block off her route back when she returns at night.

It has been almost eight days since Frein, 31, allegedly ambushed two Pennsylvania state troopers at the police barracks near his home, killing one of them. As local, state and federal authorities continue their manhunt for the suspect, the community's tension grows. Nobles, who is trying to obey officials' requests that local residents stay inside, told HuffPost Crime on Saturday morning that she's still terrified.

"I've been panicking, monitoring the police scanner and Twitter," she said. "We're so far out the local police don't come up here. I have my pepper spray in my hand every time I come back to the house. All the neighborhoods here are hunkered down, we're all in contact texting each other."

She's not the only one on edge thinking of Frein, a known survivalist and sharpshooter, who could be hiding anywhere in the thick woods of Pennsylvania. Every false alarm on the scanner sends dozens of police cruisers, armored cars and press vehicles flying through the backroads of the Poconos Mountains. There have been at least two false alarms over the past two days. On Friday night, police surrounded Frein's home as rumors of shots fired and "They got him!" swept the area.

CNN reported that police were "closing in" on Frein and had him surrounded, but that was misleading.


Officers continued their search Friday near Frein's parents' home.

At the area bars -- one of the few places locals are gathering, since the high school football games were canceled and schools closed -- locals talk about what they'd do with the FBI reward of $100,000 for catching Frein, though many admit that he's probably long gone, hiding in the 3,000-acre Promised Land State Park or beyond.

They sat Friday night huddled close in the bars chain smoking, conversations suddenly dropping when they pick something up on a police scanner. The frustrating situation had residents wondering what, if anything, they could do while a killer was on the loose.

"He's made us a prisoner in our own homes," a patron at Old Ranger's Inn, who did not wish to be identified, said. "You're afraid to walk your dog if you hear a crack in the woods."

Despite the increasing tension, locals mostly agree that Frein would be foolish to come back to the area, which boasts more than a dozen gun shops.

"Believe me, all of us are armed," the patron said.

"Everyone has a gun," said Mike, a resident who declined to share his last name. "Everyone."

At a location close to Frein's last known address, officers lit flares and barreled down streets on a tip that the alleged killer had been spotted.

As bystanders stood by, desperately hoping Frein had been captured, a woman close to the suspect's family said Eric had always been a "laid back kid" who was quiet and rarely got into trouble.

"Yesterday I sat with Eric's parents at a neighbor's house and we just spent the day praying," the woman said.

Others said they recognized the Frein family by the full-sized candy bars they gave out to children on Halloween.

Frein was added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list after he shot two officers, Alex Douglass and Bryon Dickson, outside the Blooming Grove police barracks last Friday night. Dickson was killed, while Douglass remains hospitalized.

With federal agents now in the mix, the once-quiet winding backroads are now crowded with more than 200 officers and state tactical units. Armored cars drive by as men dressed in camouflage scan dense woods, their faces painted in stripes of green, white, and brown, assault rifles slung over their shoulders.

Resident Steve Vitkovsky referred to the heavy police presence as a "marvel," something he hasn't seen the likes of since 2009, when Pennsylvania officer Joshua Miller was fatally shot while attempting to apprehend a kidnapping suspect.

"For [Frein] to go to the hornets nest and kick it? It's a shocker," Vitkovsky said.

CORRECTION: Bryon Dickson’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article.

Like Us On Facebook |
Follow Us On Twitter |
Contact The Author