Frank Freshwaters escaped from an Ohio prison farm in 1959 after serving only seven months of his 20-year sentence

By Kelli Bender
Updated May 06, 2015 10:50 AM
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Credit: Brevard County Sheriff's Office

A man who spent time in “Shawshank State Prison” and later escaped an Ohio prison farm is back in police custody after 56 years on the lam.

Frank Freshwaters, formerly of Akron, Ohio, was captured in a remote part of Brevard County, Florida, by members of the U.S. Marshals Service, according to CBS News.

Freshwaters, 79, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter in Ohio in 1957 and was given a suspended sentence of 1 to 20 years in prison. He was incarcerated two years later for getting a driver’s license, a violation of his probation.

According to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, Freshwaters was first sent to the Ohio State Reformatory, the same prison used in the filming of The Shawshank Redemption. He was later transferred to the lower-security Sandusky Honor Farm, where he escaped after serving just seven months of his 20-year sentence.

After escaping, Freshwaters took on the alias of William H. Cox, working as a truck driver in several states over the years before retiring in Florida. That’s where the authorities caught up with him.

A cold-case unit started three months ago in Ohio was able to follow Freshwaters’ trail over the decades to Brevard County, where they asked local deputies for help, reports USA Today. Authorities confronted the escapee outside his trailer and showed Freshwaters his 1959 mug shot.

“He admitted who he was and owned up to everything,” U.S. Marshal Pete Elliot told USA Today.

Freshwaters is currently being held at Brevard County Jail on a fugitive from justice warrant, and he will later be extradited to Ohio to face charges for escaping prison.

The convict’s recapture shocked Shirl Cheetham, a Palm Bay, Florida, woman who has known Freshwaters for 15 years and considers him a grandfather figure to her kids.

“I’m shell-shocked. After all this time, how he managed to keep from getting caught. He stayed out of trouble all this time,” Cheetham told USA Today. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.”

“This is someone who loved to laugh. I honestly think they should let him go,” she continued.

Freshwaters’ arrest on Monday was not the first time the man has faced the authorities since his escape. In 1975 he was arrested in Charleston, West Virginia, based on his Ohio warrant, but the judge refused to extradite Freshwaters, so he was freed, and he disappeared again.

After 56 years of freedom, Elliot believes it is time to let justice take over.

“We have a saying in the Marshals Service, ‘Let no guilty man escape,’ and that is so true in this case,” he told CBS News.

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