Shawshank escapee caught in Florida after 56 years on the run

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By Kevin Conlon
CNN

(CNN – May 6, 2015) — For 56 years, Frank Freshwaters was a free man — though he shouldn’t have been.

But not anymore.

The now 79-year-old’s life on the lam ended Monday, when he was taken into custody at his Melbourne, Florida, mobile home. Freshwaters, who was living under the alias of William Harold Cox, is being held in the Brevard County Jail pending extradition to Ohio, said Maj. Tod Goodyear of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.

Thus ends a journey that took Freshwaters though numerous states, where he held various jobs and assumed multiple identities, according to authorities.

That journey started in Ohio, where Freshwaters pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter charges stemming from a 1957 automobile accident. He initially got probation for that crime, only to be sentenced again in 1959 to up to 20 years at the Ohio State Reformatory after a parole violation.

The Ohio State Reformatory may look familiar to moviegoers familiar with “The Shawshank Redemption.”

While that 1994 film and the Stephen King novella that inspired it were set in Maine, it was largely shot at the Ohio State Reformatory. In fact, people in Mansfield, Ohio, can take tours to see key locales from the movie — like the prison warden’s office, parole board room, “the yard” and the escape tunnel used by main character Andy Dufresne that he took before fixing up his fishing boat in Mexico.

Dufresne, as played by Tim Robbins, benefited from being a favorite of Shawshank’s warden and prison guards. In that respect, his story resembles that of Freshwaters, who was “quickly able to earn the trust of the prison officials,” according to Peter Elliott, the U.S. marshal for the Northern District of Ohio

This trust helped to earn the Akron native a transfer to what’s called an honor farm, Elliott said.

Freshwaters escaped from that honor farm, not the prison. While it took Dufresne nearly 20 years to dig his way out of prison, Freshwaters managed to escape from custody after only seven months. Authorities have not divulged details on how he did it.

CNN’s attempts to reach family members of Frank Freshwaters in the Akron, Ohio, area, as well as those of William Harold Cox in Melbourne, were not successful.

CNN’s Greg Botelho contributed to this report

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