Fugitive arrested in Brevard County after 56 years in hiding

Police say an escapee has been arrested after 56 years of avoiding capture.
Police say an escapee has been arrested after 56 years of avoiding capture.

MELBOURNE, Fla. – A 79-year-old man on the lam for 56 years after being convicted of manslaughter was arrested Monday in Brevard County, authorities say.

Frank Freshwaters, who was living under the alias William H. Cox, was arrested in Melbourne on a fugitive from justice warrant, according to deputies. The Brevard County Sheriff's Office GAMEOVER Task Force located him at his trailer home on Jones Road.

"They actually walked up to him, showed him the 1959 picture, and asked if he had seen this person, and he said, 'I haven't seen him in a long time,'" said Maj. Tod Goodyear, with the Brevard County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies said Freshwaters, of Akron, Ohio, was initially incarcerated at the Ohio State Reformatory (known as the Shawshank State Prison) and later escaped from the Sandusky Ohio Honor Farm in 1959 after serving seven months of a 20-year sentence for violating the terms of his probation in regard to a manslaughter conviction.

Authorities said Freshwaters had lived in several states working as a truck driver before settling in Brevard County. It is believed that Freshwaters has been in Melbourne for about 20 years and was living off social security checks.

"He had actually assumed another identity and was living under it," said Goodyear. "I'm not sure how long he's lived under that name, but long enough that he actually had benefits from it."

A newly created Marshal's Task Force in Ohio recently reopened the investigation into the whereabouts of Freshwaters and uncovered evidence that he might be living in the Melbourne area.

The Ohio man did have one run-in with law enforcement since escaping in 1959. In 1975, agents arrested him in West Virginia, but at that time, the governor there wouldn't extradite him back to Ohio. He was then released and went back into hiding and Goodyear said he's been under the radar ever since.

"Obviously he's been able to stay out of trouble for a long period of time," said Goodyear.

Freshwaters went before a judge for the first time Tuesday afternoon at the Brevard County Jail where he waived his extradition. He is now being held on a no-bond status until authorities from Ohio can come pick him up.

Deputies said he's admitted and owned up to everything. 

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