MILFORD, Pa., (Thursday afternoon, April 6) - Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014.
It was the day after a sniper's bullets killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounded Trooper Alex Douglass outside the state police Blooming Grove barracks on Route 402.

MILFORD, Pa., (Thursday afternoon, April 6) - Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014.
It was the day after a sniper’s bullets killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounded Trooper Alex Douglass outside the state police Blooming Grove barracks on Route 402.

Protected by armed state troopers in case one or more snipers were still in the area, a forensic investigative team found spent rifle shell casings in the woods from which the bullets had been fired across the road at the barracks. The shooter or shooters had not yet been identified at that point.

That morning, James Novak and his wife, who heard what had happened, were returning from breakfast to their home on Route 6, about two miles from the barracks, when they came upon a police roadblock, Novak testified Thursday, the third day of Eric Frein’s trial, in Pike County Court.

It was a discovery Novak made days after the shootings that led authorities to identify Frein as the suspect and eventually capture Frein after a 48-day manhunt in the Poconos.

The start of Thursday’s testimony was delayed for several hours when Frein had to be taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono after an accident.

Attorneys would not confirm information saying he had slipped and hit his head while brushing his teeth in county jail, but defense attorney Michael Weinstein said Frein was feeling well enough to continue with the trial. Frein appeared with no visible injuries or bandages while listening to Novak’s testimony that afternoon.

Discovering the Jeep

“At the roadblock, police asked if we’d seen or heard anything,” Novak testified. “We hadn’t.”
Two days passed as the police investigation into the shootings continued and the suspect(s) remained unidentified.

Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, was the Novaks’ 45th wedding anniversary, but they weren’t in a celebratory mood in light of what had happened. The couple’s property adjoins a state forest.

“I told my wife I was going out for a walk,” James Novak testified.

“I wanted to make sure no one was using our property as a hideout,” he said, adding that he was armed with nothing more than his dog when going out on his walk. “On our property are several sheds I cleaned out myself. I also wanted to see if I could find anything to help the police in their investigation, though I wasn’t looking for anything in particular.”

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By that time, the public had been notified of a Crimestoppers reward being offered to anyone with information leading to the identification of whomever had killed Dickson and wounded Douglass.
Novak and his dog walked into the woods, taking a paved road that eventually became a dirt path leading to an open, grassy area.

In that area was a muddy drainage retention pond, about 250 yards from the Novak residence. A 2001 Jeep Cherokee Sport sat with both front wheels submerged in that pond.

Novak approached and looked in through the rear driver-side window, which was rolled down, and saw papers and other items on the seats.

Covering his hand with his T-shirt to avoid his skin touching any part of the vehicle, he opened the door to get a better look at what was inside and then stopped cold. Having served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam, Novak knew he was looking at an empty rifle case and military paraphernalia.
“That’s when I told myself, ‘Now’s a good time to get outta here,’” he said.

Novak and his dog returned home, where he phoned his discovery in to police. Investigators later arrived, interviewed Novak and towed the Jeep out of the pond to be taken to a location for forensic examination. No tire tracks were photographed where the Jeep had been found, one investigator testified under defense cross-examination.

In the Jeep, which was registered to the Canadensis address where Frein had been living with his parents at the time, were his two driver’s licenses, one of which had expired in 2011 with the other set to expire in 2015, according to Thursday testimony from state police investigators. Also found were his Northampton Community College and East Stroudsburg University identification cards, along with other items including the rifle case, a military-style satchel bag and two spent rifle shell casings.

Days later, with Frein now identified and being sought as the alleged sniper, Novak received a $22,000 Crimestoppers reward at the state police barracks, according to testimony.

Cpl. Alonzo Anderson of the state police Pittsburgh barracks testified to leading the Special Emergency Response Team finding the rifle, presumably from the empty rifle case in the Jeep, in the woods not far from where Novak had spotted the Jeep in the pond.

A string was attached to the rifle, which was found partially buried under leaves by a tree, making the team suspect it might be booby-trapped, Anderson said. A hazardous materials/devices team later safely removed and secured the rifle for forensic examination by investigators.

Testimony is scheduled to continue Friday.