For the most part, if you commit a crime, you’re supposed to appear before a jury of your peers and face the punishment that the judge deems most suitable. However, some who do the crime simply refuse to do the time.
For these folks, this can mean appealing their cases in the courts, but others go a different route when they can’t face the music. When Frank Freshwaters was sentenced to jail for 20 years, he knew he couldn’t stay in the Ohio State Reformatory where he was sentenced.
What he did to get out—and what followed his escape—would go down in history…
In 1957, nothing could stop the handsome Frank Freshwaters. Newly married, he had a great job working in the rubber industry. In fact, Akron, Ohio, where he lived, was considered the rubber capital of the world.
Frank’s good fortunes and happy life would all go up in smoke one summer night, however. Eugene Flynt, an Army veteran and a fellow rubber worker at the plant, had been walking home from the factory when Frank’s car came around the bend going dangerously fast…
Before Frank could even touch the brake, he struck Flynt, whose body flew up into the air and crashed to the ground with devastating force. Flynt was dead, and the worst part was that the whole thing happened as his wife and his sons watched from their window across the street from the factory. He started to panic…
The speed limit in the area where Frank lived was 30 miles an hour, but he was going well over 50 miles an hour. A jury convicted him of second degree manslaughter and he was remanded to Ohio State Reformatory. Only, he was not prepared for life inside this particularly rough prison.
The judge on Frank’s case took pity on the man. Since Frank had no prior criminal record, and because he pled guilty to his crime, his initial sentence of 20 years was suspended. He could leave prison. Instead of serving hard time, Frank would serve just five years probation, but that came with conditions…
Frank would have understood the conditions of his probation if he had a lawyer present, but he did not. Because of this, he went ahead and purchased a car and a new driver’s license, two things that violated his probation. He also failed to report weekly to his probation officer, and never paid Flynt’s widow the weekly restitution that was dictated by the court.
Because he violated the terms of his probation, Frank was sent back to Ohio State Reformatory. It was a grim and dangerous place, especially for someone as baby-faced as Frank. He was locked up along with rapists, thieves, and other hardened criminals.
The Mansfield, Ohio, prison was home to the world’s largest free-standing steel cell block. Frank wasn’t even six feet tall and weighed just 150 pounds. As soon as he saw his cell, he knew that he was in for a very rough ride…
The prison, while huge, was also very overpopulated. It smelled terrible; rats and roaches ran rampant; and the men who were kept inside the prison were loud, violent, and often remained horribly dirty rather than risk the dangers of the prison showers.
Each prison cell in the facility was just seven feet by nine feet in size, which was not a lot of space when you consider the fact that each cell was designed for two inmates to share. A sink, a toilet, and a writing desk were the only pieces of furniture that they were allowed.
Because of the type of crime Frank committed, he was only kept under medium security. This meant he could have a job at the prison, and he did, working daily inside of the prison hospital. Other than that, he kept to himself, desperate to keep a low profile and avoid trouble with the other inmates or the guards.
Things inside of the prison might have been rough, but outside of the prison, Frank’s life wasn’t going so well either. After Frank was sent to prison, his wife decided to leave him. She took their sons and decided it was time to leave the state altogether.
With nothing left to lose, Frank’s mind turned to thoughts of escaping the prison. He knew that he didn’t have it in him to wait several years, nor would he try to dig his way out of the prison under the cover of night. He had another plan altogether…
Frank knew that the key to his escape was getting a job working outside on the prison’s farmland, and the only way to be posted there was with good behavior. He was awarded a “Bond of Faithful Service and Trust” on September 1, 1959 and given a spot working outside. His plan was in motion.
After receiving this special bond, Frank was transferred to a facility 50 miles away from the Reformatory. He was placed at the Sandusky Honor Camp, a place where inmates grew sustainable crops for the prison under less strict supervision.
Frank didn’t even wait a full 30 days before he made his escape. He and another inmate simply walked away from the prison. fled under cover of darkness. The guards at Sandusky didn’t realize the men were missing until they conducted their final head count that night.
It was just that easy. The two men simply walked away from the prison. The man Frank escaped with had been arrested for burglary, but no one knew what happened to him once they left the prison. Meanwhile, Frank headed south.
For the next 56 years, Frank Freshwaters evaded capture by the authorities. He adopted a new name, William Cox, living in West Virginia first and in Florida after that. He never contacted his family while he was out. He thought he was free. That all changed in 2015…
A Brevard County Sheriff’s deputy had heard rumors about an escaped convict living in a trailer in the area. The deputy simply knocked on the door and Frank answered. When Frank saw the deputy’s badge, he knew he was done for.
Although he had evaded captured for decades, Frank was ultimately granted parole. His lawyer argued that the man had lived a quiet life since he fled the prison and had never forgotten the day he took Flynt’s life. As for the Ohio State Reformatory, ironically, it would inspire a very famous story: The Shawshank Redemption.
What Frank did was truly terrible, but there’s no doubt that his story is compelling. Thank goodness he was finally caught and the truth was revealed.
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