Abandoned car sparks search for Pennsylvania shooter in Bovina

A stolen Pennsylvania car that was found abandoned in the small Catskills town of Bovina caused a massive police search for possible connections to fugitive Eric Matthew Frein on Wednesday, Oct. 22. Police say that there is no confirmed link to Frein, and no imminent danger to residents in the rural Delaware County area around Bovina.

Frein, who is accused of shooting two Pennsylvania state police officers on Sept. 12, one of them fatally, is on the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted list.

Above: Detail from the FBI's Wanted notice on Frein.

There is no direct evidence that Frein has anything to do with the car, according to Delaware County Sheriff Tom Mills.

"We just wanted to err on the side of caution," Mills said.

The car, a black 2012 Porsche Cayman with Pennsylvania license plates, was reported stolen last week from a part of Pennsylvania about 15 miles from the center of a massive manhunt that has been searching for Frein for six weeks, Mills said.

A press release from the Delaware County Sheriff's Office reported that the car's license plate is DSN-8875, and that it was reported stolen to the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department in Pennsylvania on Saturday, Oct. 18.

Police on both sides of the Delaware River in New York and Pennsylvania are on high alert for possible signs of Frein, an accomplished survivalist, so the Delaware County Sheriff decided to take no chances, Mills said.

Delaware County 911 received a complaint about an abandoned car on Lee Hollow Road in the Delaware County town of Bovina at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 22, Mills said.

After a sheriff's deputy ran the car's plates and found that it had been stolen from Pennsylvania, police grew concerned about a connection to Frein.

"I don't think it was stolen from more than 15 miles from where the search [for Frein] is going on," Mills said. "He could walk that in a day."

By 7 p.m. last night, over 50 police officers from multiple law enforcement agencies, including a highly trained rapid response SWAT-style officers, were in Bovina. They searched Lee Hollow Road, interviewed nearby residents, and investigated a church and a large horse farm nearby.

Highly trained sharpshooters camped out in the woods in icy rain all night, Mills said. "It was quite an event for the area there," he said.

At 3 a.m, the Delaware County Sheriff's Office sent out a press release telling residents that a "joint investigation" was being conducted in the Bovina area. "There is no reason to believe that any resident is in imminent danger at this time," the release stated.

Around 4 or 5 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 23, after finding no sign of Frein in Bovina, police moved the investigation's command center to Delaware County's law enforcement headquarters in Delhi, Mills said.

The Porsche was sent to the State Police's forensic lab in Albany, Mills said.

Nathan Riegal, a spokesman for the New York State Police, confirmed that the State Police are examining the car for possible connections to Frein.

"The investigation is still ongoing until they've determined more information about the car," Mills said.

In the meantime, the tone among law enforcement is one of relaxed caution.

"We just want to be safe rather than sorry," Mills said.

Update, 5:25 p.m.: Delaware County Undersheriff Craig DuMond told the Watershed Post late Thursday afternoon that no further evidence had been uncovered that might link the car to Frein.

"We're waiting for the forensics to come back on the car," DuMond said. "That's crucial to our investigation at this point."

Police expect results from the state forensic lab's investigation of the car sometime on Friday, DuMond said.

"At this point there are no other indicators that Frein may be involved in this. The only indicator we have is that the vehicle was stolen from the general vicinity where he was," he said. 

DuMond said that the Sheriff's Office was committed to being open and transparent about the progress of the investigation.

"I've received a lot of phone calls today from concerned citizens," he said. "If there's a reason to be alarmed, we'll be the first agency to let everyone know."

Update, Sunday, Oct. 26: Frein did not steal the Porsche found in Bovina, Pennsylvania State Police announced Saturday. According to a news story in the Allentown Morning Call, a police spokesperson who made the announcement did not share any information about how they determined Frein was not connected to the stolen car.

Update, Monday, Oct. 27: The New York State Police say that the results of forensic tests on the stolen car show no connection to Eric Matthew Frein. See our full story here. 

Editor's note: Police are understandably jumpy about fugitives in Bovina. In 2013, an armed man held a couple hostage at gunpoint in their Bovina home before killing himself. In 2007, a similar confrontation in nearby Margaretville ended in disaster, with a fugitive dead and a state trooper killed by friendly fire.