No ruling on extradition of fugitive on lam since 1959

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COCOA, Fla. (AP) — A recently captured, longtime Ohio fugitive will remain in Florida at least a bit longer.

Judge Rhonda Babb said Thursday that she will take some time before deciding whether 79-year-old Frank Freshwater, who had been on the lam since walking away from a prison farm in 1959, can contest his extradition back to Ohio after a recent arrest in Florida.

Babb reserved ruling on the issue during a hearing Thursday. But she promised to rule by Tuesday, when Ohio officials have arrangements to fly him back.

Last week, Freshwater waived extradition, but attorney Bryan Savy asked Babb to void it. Freshwater testified that he "wasn't thinking straight" when he signed papers before an initial court appearance. Savy also said Freshwater wasn't told he could procure his own lawyer.

Freshwater was arrested in Brevard County after sheriff's deputies used a ruse to match his fingerprints to his decades-old arrest.

He originally pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 1957.

After all these years, there are also discrepancies involving his name. Documents in Ohio refer to him as "Freshwaters," according to the U.S. Marshals Service. But court documents filed by his attorney in Florida refer to him as "Freshwater."

In addition to Freshwater's testimony Thursday, Savy also replayed part of the audio from Freshwater's initial court appearance in Florida last week. He highlighted a handful of occasions in which a public defender seemed to interpret Freshwater's barely audible responses as him saying he had signed the extradition waiver.

But asked Thursday if he understood what he was signing last week, Freshwater was adamant that he wasn't fully aware.

"I was kind of upset...I wasn't thinking straight," Freshwater said.

Asked specifically by Savy if it was his intent to fight the extradition, Freshwater responded "Yes, sir."

If he is eventually extradited, Ohio's Adult Parole Authority is expected to handle his transport back to the state. A representative from Ohio who was in the courtroom Thursday told Babb that officials have already purchased plane tickets to transport Freshwater on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said Wednesday that the extradition had been scheduled and was proceeding as planned, but he wouldn't give details, citing security concerns. If the court allows the withdrawal of the extradition waiver, the department "will explore other options," spokesman Scott Flowers said, without elaborating.

"He's a determined man," U.S. Marshal Pete Elliot told The Associated Press earlier Thursday. "What else is he going to do? He's kind of run out of options."


Associated Press reporters Jennifer Smola and Kantele Franko, in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.


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