Convicted Killer on Lam Since 1959 Caught in Florida - NBC New York
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Convicted Killer on Lam Since 1959 Caught in Florida

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    Convicted Killer on Lam Since 1959 Caught in Florida
    Brevard County Sheriff's Office/U.S. Marshals
    Harold Frank Freshwaters

    Authorities in Florida say a ruse to get a man's fingerprints led to his arrest as a convicted killer who escaped an Ohio prison farm and disappeared for most of six decades.

    Brevard County deputies say investigators with the U.S. Marshals Service in Ohio sought help to check out the man while chasing leads about Frank Freshwaters, an Akron man who escaped in 1959.

    Major Tod Goodyear says they created a ruse to get the man to sign papers, then matched the fingerprints to those from the decades-old arrest.

    "We couldn't go with a picture and see if it's that guy," Goodyear said. "You look different than you do 50 years ago."

    Goodyear says they watched the man for a week, then confronted him Monday at his trailer near Melbourne. Goodyear says they showed him his photo from 50 years ago, asking if he'd seen that guy, and he admitted they had found him.

    "They showed him the pic, and he said he hadn't seen that guy in a long time," Goodyear said. "Then he admitted it and basically said, 'You got me.'"

    Freshwaters, now 79 years old, was arrested and booked Monday by the Brevard County Sheriff's Office. He's been ordered held without bond.

    It is not known if he has hired an attorney.

    Freshwaters had retired from a job as a truck driver and was living off Social Security benefits, Goodyear said.

    He'd left clues about his identity over the past 56 years, and investigators traced those to his Florida doorstep, said U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott in Cleveland. He wouldn't discuss specifics.

    "We have a saying in the Marshals Service, 'Let no guilty man escape,' and that is so true in this case," Elliott said.

    Freshwaters was convicted of manslaughter for killing a pedestrian with a vehicle in July 1957, and his initially suspended sentence of one to 20 years in prison was imposed in 1959 after he violated his probation by driving and getting a driver's license, according to the marshals and old court documents they provided. He was imprisoned at the old Ohio State Reformatory before being moved to a lower-security camp near Sandusky, where he escaped in September 1959, the statement said.

    His time on the lam was interrupted in 1975, when he was arrested on the Ohio warrant by the sheriff's office in Charleston, West Virginia. When the governor there refused to send him back to Ohio, he was freed and disappeared again, the marshals said.

    An investigation by a deputy marshal assigned this year to target cold cases led authorities to Florida, where Freshwaters was living as William Harold Cox, the statement said.