A man who disappeared from a prison camp in 1959 while serving time for manslaughter and was found in Florida last year was granted parole Thursday.
Frank Freshwaters wasn't at the hearing in Columbus, but his sons were. They were relieved and overjoyed at the board's decision to release Freshwaters on April 24, about a week after his 80th birthday. One son, who was born months after the accident that got Freshwaters in trouble, said he's hoping to get to know him better.
Exactly where Freshwaters will go hasn't been settled, but the conditions for his release include five years of supervision.
Freshwaters' attorney, Gordon Beggs, told the board that his client never forgot the accident that led to his case. Freshwaters was speeding when he fatally struck 24-year-old pedestrian Eugene Flynt in 1957.
Investigators who tracked down Freshwaters last May said he was living off Social Security benefits under the alias William Harold Cox at a weathered trailer in rural Brevard County, Florida. The 79-year-old was returned to Ohio and had a closed parole hearing in August.
The Summit County prosecutor's office recommended against parole, saying Freshwaters had changed his name, avoided accountability and never paid the restitution ordered for Flynt's family. Flynt's son, Richard, told the board that Freshwaters should be held accountable for what he did, but he said the specifics of how were up to them.
Freshwaters' son Jim Cox said his father had 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 reconnected with Freshwaters because of media coverage of the case.
Shirl Cheetham, a friend of Freshwaters', got choked up as she told the board he had become like family to her and would be welcome to live with them in Florida.
After he 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.