Shawshank escapee caught 56 years later

Posted at 5:09 AM, May 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-06 05:09:23-04

(CNN) — It’s a case where real life seemed to parallel art — until the crucial last scene.

In the 1994 film adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Shawshank Redemption,” the last we saw of fugitive Andy Dufresne, he was enjoying life on the lam fixing up his fishing boat in Mexico.

But for real-life counterpart Frank Freshwaters, an actual Shawshank Prison escapee who spent the past 56 years on the run before being recaptured this week, there won’t likely be any tropical sunsets in his final act.

Freshwaters, who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter charges stemming from a 1957 automobile accident, initially got probation. But he was sentenced in 1959 to serve up to 20 years at the Ohio State Reformatory, also known as Shawshank State Prison, after a parole violation.

Just as Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, benefited from being a favorite of Shawshank’s warden and prison guards, Freshwaters 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, earning the Akron native a transfer to what’s called an “honor farm,” according to Elliott.

That’s when Freshwaters plotted his escape.

But unlike Dufresne, who spent nearly 20 years digging a tunnel with a worn down rock hammer, Freshwaters managed to escape after only seven months. The details of that escape have not been divulged.

For the next 56 years later, Freshwaters lived in various states, held various jobs and had various aliases, according to authorities.

Now 79, in a wheelchair and living under the alias William Harold Cox, Freshwaters was taken into custody Monday at his Melbourne, Florida, mobile home.

He is being held in the Brevard County Jail pending extradition back to Ohio, according to Major Tod Goodyear in Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.

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