COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A man who disappeared from a prison camp in 1959 while serving time for manslaughter and was found in Florida last year should be released from custody, Ohio’s parole board decided Thursday.
Frank Freshwaters wasn’t at the hearing before the full state parole board in Columbus. But his attorney, Gordon Beggs, told the board that Freshwaters has lived a clean life and never forgot the accident that led to his case. Freshwaters was speeding when he fatally struck 24-year-old pedestrian Eugene Flynt in 1957.
Shirl Cheetham, a friend of Freshwaters’, got choked up as she talked to the board about him. She said that Freshwaters has become like family to her and that he’d be welcome to live with her family in Florida if he’s released from prison.
Investigators who tracked down Freshwaters last May said he was living off Social Security benefits under an alias at a weathered trailer in rural Brevard County, Florida. They found him living as a retired widower under an old alias, William Harold Cox.
The 79-year-old was returned to Ohio and had a closed parole hearing in August.
The Summit County prosecutor’s office spoke out against parole Thursday, saying Freshwaters had changed his name, avoided accountability and never paid the restitution ordered for Flynt’s family.
Freshwaters’ son Jim Cox told the board his father has been haunted by the accident. Another son, Jeff Lloyd, extended his sympathies to the victim’s family.
“I’d like to apologize to Mr. (Richard) Flynt for the loss of his father because I can relate,” said Lloyd, who was born months after the accident that got his father into trouble.
Richard Flynt told the board that Freshwaters should be held accountable for what he did, but he said the specifics of how are up to them.
After Freshwaters pleaded guilty to manslaughter, his initial sentence of one to 20 years in prison was suspended. He violated his probation by driving and getting a driver’s license, and, at 22, he was imprisoned in February 1959 at the Ohio State Reformatory, according to U.S. marshals and old court documents they provided.
He was soon moved to an honor camp near Sandusky, where he was reported missing on Sept. 30, 1959, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
He was first caught in West Virginia in 1975, but the governor refused to extradite him, concluding Freshwaters had a “flawless 16-year residency” there.