No new charge for Ohio escapee who spent decades on the lam

AP News
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Posted: Sep 08, 2015 12:53 PM
No new charge for Ohio escapee who spent decades on the lam

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A man who disappeared from a northern Ohio prison camp in 1959 while serving time for manslaughter and was found this year in Florida won't face new escape-related charges in his home state, a prosecutor said.

Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter said he decided not to pursue any escape charges for Frank Freshwaters after considering his existing sentence, potential legal limitations and what little evidence might exist to build a case against him in the decades-old escape. All that's left is really old records, Baxter said.

The 79-year-old widower from Akron could face up to 20 years on his original charge, and that allows for "sufficient penalty" if the parole board and prisons department see fit to make Freshwaters serve that time, the prosecutor said.

"He's serving his sentence, and I just think it might be a duplication of resources" to prosecute him again, Baxter said.

Freshwaters was imprisoned in 1959 after hitting a man with a vehicle and violating probation. He wasn't charged when he disappeared from a Sandusky prison camp or years later when he was found in 1975 in St. Albans, West Virginia, Baxter said.

Records show then-Gov. Arch Moore Jr. concluded Freshwaters had been rehabilitated during his years as a fugitive living in West Virginia, and he refused to extradite the escapee from that state.

Authorities didn't track him down again until early May, when investigators say they found Freshwaters living off Social Security benefits under an alias at a weathered trailer in rural Brevard County, near Florida's east coast.

He has been held at a prison facility in southwest Ohio and is awaiting the parole board's decision about his possible release. The board, which had his first parole hearing last month, wanted more information about him and referred the case for additional review with no decision expected for several weeks.

Prison officials have said that Freshwaters declined interview requests from media and that any documentation submitted for the board's closed hearing isn't being released.