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Ohio board grants parole for 55-year fugitive

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An Ohio board heard arguments Thursday on whether to grant parole to a man who disappeared from a prison camp in 1959 while serving time for manslaughter and was found last year in rural Florida.

On Thursday afternoon, the board granted his parole.

Frank Freshwaters spent nearly 56 years hiding from authorities after escaping from a prison featured in the movie "The Shawshank Redemption," reported CBS affiliate WKMG.

Freshwaters wasn't at the hearing before the full state parole board in Columbus. But his attorney, Gordon Beggs, told the board that Freshwaters has lived a clean life and never forgot the accident that led to his case.

Shirl Cheetham, a friend of Freshwaters', got choked up as she talked to the board about him. She said that Freshwaters has become like family to her and that he'd be welcome to live with her family in Florida if he's released from prison.

Killer who escaped prison in 1959 is caught

Investigators who tracked down Freshwaters last May say he was living off Social Security benefits under an alias at a weathered trailer in rural Brevard County, Florida. They found him living as a retired widower under an old alias, William Harold Cox.

The 79-year-old was returned to Ohio and had a closed parole hearing in August.

Freshwaters had pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge for fatally striking a 24-year-old pedestrian while speeding in a vehicle in July 1957, and 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 the 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.

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