Fugitive led double life with murder in her past

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- 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.

Lived ordinary life

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

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.

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.

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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