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Ohio fugitive arrested in Brevard County after 56 years in hiding

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His real name: Frank Freshwaters, an inmate who once stayed at the Ohio State Reformatory, the infamous state prison.
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"He admitted who he was and owned up to everything," U.S. Marshal Pete Elliot said when reached at his Ohio office. Three months ago, Elliot, whose federal jurisdiction is northern Ohio, formed a cold-case unit and quickly turned up information on Freshwaters.

"He's been in Florida for several decades. He probably tried to go as far south as he could," Elliot said.

Ohio authorities said Freshwaters, then 21 and married, struck and killed 24-year-old Eugene Flynt with his vehicle on July 3, 1957, in Akron. Documents released by Elliot's office show that Freshwaters was traveling more than 50 mph in a 35 mph zone.

Freshwaters, a painter by profession, was indicted on second-degree manslaughter charges. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was given five years of probation with a suspended sentence of one to 20 years, records show. In Feb. 1959, Freshwaters was charged with violating his probation and sent to the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield. Later, authorities said, he charmed prison officials, gaining their trust as a model inmate.

He was sent to the Sandusky Honor Farm, where he escaped on Sept. 30,1959.

Goodyear said the man told sheriff's agents that he had been on the lam since escaping in 1959, settling down in Melbourne and earning a living driving a truck before he retired.

Tuesday, Freshwaters was expected to go before a judge at the Brevard County Jail Complex, where he will be held on a fugitive from justice warrant. He will then be extradited to Ohio to face an escape charge.

"That's a long time to be in hiding," Goodyear said. "Over half a century. When he went to prison, Elvis was in his heyday. There was black-and-white television. It's an interesting case."

Shirl Cheetham, 34, of Palm Bay said she had known Freshwaters — or William Cox as she knew him — for nearly 15 years. She's heard his jokes, listened to him play guitar and even went hunting with him. She also says the man her children call "Grandpa Will" was the best man at her 2012 wedding.

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