COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A man who disappeared from an Ohio prison camp in 1959 while serving time for manslaughter and was found this year is set for a public hearing with the state board considering whether he should get parole.
Frank Freshwaters was living off Social Security benefits under an alias at a weathered trailer in rural Brevard County, Florida, until investigators tracked him down in May, officials said. The 79-year-old widower was taken to a prison in southeast Ohio and has awaited a decision since a majority of the parole board had a closed hearing on the matter in August.
Now members have decided to put the matter before the full parole board in a hearing Feb. 25, prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said Tuesday.
Such hearings allow for interested parties to weigh in and “are routinely scheduled for those cases in which a majority of the board initially believes that an inmate may be suitable for parole,” Smith said in an email. Relatives and other witnesses on both sides of the case weren’t permitted at the earlier hearing but will have an opportunity to attend or provide testimony for the public hearing.
Gordon Beggs, an attorney who says he’s representing Freshwaters, said the inmate has a large community of supporters in Florida and elsewhere, including some that submitted statements to the board on Freshwaters’ behalf.
One of Freshwaters’ sons, Jim Cox, of West Virginia, said he hopes to attend the hearing and is heartbroken his father must wait months for a decision.
“We just want him out and want him home,” Cox said.
Cox said that he’d spoken with his father by phone earlier Tuesday and that Freshwaters is “pretty depressed” about the news because he’ll remain incarcerated at least three months more.
The Akron man was imprisoned in 1959 after hitting a man with a vehicle and violating probation, and he disappeared from a Sandusky camp later that year.
He was found in 1975 in West Virginia, but its then-governor concluded Freshwaters had been rehabilitated during life on the lam and refused to extradite him to Ohio, saying he didn’t believe Freshwaters was a danger to society.
Investigators believe he’d been in Florida since the 1980s. Why he wasn’t found by Ohio authorities for so long remains a mystery.
The Erie County prosecutor decided not to file any new escape-related charge against Freshwaters, concluding the possibility that he could serve up to 20 years on his original charge allowed for “sufficient penalty.”
The son of Eugene Flynt, the man Freshwaters hit, previously told reporters he thought the inmate should have to serve more of his sentence.