Monday, May 27, 2002

This is today's news story of the day.....enjoy....

32-Year Fugitive Captured in Ohio

.c The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Some know her as Margo Freshwater, convicted of one murder and accused in two others, an escapee from a Tennessee prison who remained undiscovered for 32 years. To others, she's Tonya McCartor, a caring and easygoing soul who competed in ballroom dancing and worked hard to support her three children. Authorities say McCartor, arrested May 19, and Freshwater are one and the same, and that they have fingerprints and a confession to prove it. It's a claim relatives of the woman called McCartor can't fathom, and which her attorney is challenging.

``We know a loving mother, a loving grandmother and a wonderful wife who has made me the happiest man that I could have ever imagined,'' said her husband of two years, Daryl McCartor. ``They've got the wrong person.''

His wife, 53, was jailed without bond pending a hearing June 18 on whether she should be returned to Tennessee. Her attorney, Richard Pyatt, noted that in 1984 an Ohio court declared Freshwater dead at relatives' request.

``She's not who they say she is,'' he said.

Investigators say an ordinary lifestyle helped Freshwater - one of Tennessee's most-wanted fugitives - escape detection.

``She kind of disappeared into the woodwork,'' said Ron O'Brien, Franklin County prosecutor.

Freshwater, an 18-year-old high school dropout, had gone to Tennessee in 1966 to visit a boyfriend jailed on a robbery charge. She began an affair with his attorney, Glenn Nash. Authorities say Freshwater and Nash killed a liquor store clerk in Tennessee, a convenience store clerk in Florida and a cab driver in Mississippi that December. They were arrested at a bus station in Mississippi. Nash was declared incompetent to stand trial and spent several years in mental hospitals. He was released in 1983. But Freshwater escaped from prison in Nashville in 1970, when she was 23. She was 1 1/2 years into a 99-year sentence for murdering the liquor store clerk, Hillman Robbins Sr.

With another prisoner - who wasn't recaptured until the early 1990s - she scaled the only fence, outran guards to the nearest highway and hitched a ride with a trucker. The two women ended up in Baltimore and stayed for a few weeks before going their separate ways. Freshwater was pregnant. The father is unknown. She boarded a train for Ashland, Ohio, applied for a new Social Security number, took the alias Tonya Myers and settled in a boarding house, authorities say. There she met Phillip Zimmerman. She told him she had been raped in a juvenile jail while serving a sentence for petty theft. She never told him much else.

``She was always very secretive about her past. We didn't talk much about it,'' Zimmerman recalled from his home in Helenwood, Tenn.

The two never married, but they raised her son and had a daughter.

``She was completely devoted to her kids,'' said Zimmerman, 55. ``When she wasn't working, she was with them.''

Freshwater apparently never altered her appearance or contacted relatives, though she lived and worked in several central Ohio communities only 50 to 75 miles from her suburban Columbus hometown. Freshwater worked as a waitress, country club manager and bartender. She registered to vote, entered ballroom dancing competitions, was licensed to sell insurance and learned to drive a tractor-trailer. Her only trouble with the law was a few minor traffic violations. After breaking up with Zimmerman, Freshwater met and married Joseph Hudkins, a railroad worker, and took his last name. The two had a son. Hudkins died in 1988. Left to raise the children alone, Freshwater worked in the 1990s as an administrative assistant at MetLife in Columbus and sold insurance in her hometown.

Still, she told investigators she never ran into anyone who knew her. She met McCartor, a trucker, through a dating service. They lived just miles from where Freshwater grew up with her mother, brother and half brother. McCartor and the children, while acknowledging they know little of her past, insist she is innocent.

``She's a good person. She does not deserve this whatsoever,'' said son Timothy Hudkins, tears filling his eyes.

Angela Hudkins, who lives in Cambridge, N.Y., with her two children, said their mother is suffering for a crime she didn't commit.

``She's been completely stripped of a family that loves and supports her,'' she said.

On May 19, investigators watched as the woman they had tracked down as Freshwater shopped at a grocery store and at Jolly Pirate Donuts. She went with her husband, son Timothy and his wife and baby to a health club in a nearby hotel. As the family left the hotel and walked across the parking lot, investigators approached. They say Freshwater was stoic and gave her relatives long hugs before quietly leaving with police. Authorities say she admitted her identity after one of her thumbprints matched one taken from Freshwater in 1966.

Larry Wallace, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said investigators pieced together bits of information gathered over the years.
Suspecting Freshwater was in Ohio and discovering she had used the alias Tonya, agents scoured computer databases to find women named Tonya who had birthdates similar to Freshwater's. They found matches last month to Tonya Hudkins and Tonya McCartor, and pulled drivers' license photos for both.

``It reaches a point where you don't have any more rocks to turn over,'' O'Brien said.

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