An 18-year-old former babysitter goes on a murderous rampage.
The year was 1970. Margo Freshwater, a wide-eyed teenager from Columbus, Ohio, found herself in an unlikely place—the Tennessee State Prison for Women. The one time babysitter had just been convicted of first-degree murder. But Margo would not remain incarcerated for long. On October 4th, Margo and another inmate made an audacious escape. According to Investigator Tommy Lewis of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Margo and her accomplice made a run for the fence while being escorted by a single unarmed guard:
“The guard had to make a decision whether to stay with the main group or chase after them. All the guard could do was try to summon some help and have somebody go after them.”
But the help arrived too late and Freshwater vanished. Margo Freshwater has been a wanted fugitive for more than 30 years. Police believed she had established a new identity and a new life. Those around her were probably unaware that she was a convicted killer.
Margo Freshwater was just 18-years-old when she walked into the office of 41-year-old Glenn Nash. He was a hard-drinking lawyer whose grip on reality was beginning to slip. Nash was being investigated by the Memphis Bar Association for misconduct. According to Investigator Lewis, he had come to the deluded conclusion that agents from the bar were conspiring against him:
“Glenn Nash was an intelligent person, but somewhere along the line his drinking and mental situation apparently deteriorated and he just took a left hand turn.”
Margo had come seeking Nash’s help in getting her boyfriend out of jail. Margo had no money to pay Nash and couldn't even afford a place to stay while in town. Although broke himself, Nash agreed to take the case pro bono. He also put Margo up at a local boarding house where they began an intense affair. But Nash was increasingly consumed by paranoid delusions that agents from the Memphis bar were after him. One evening, he told Margo's landlady they were going bowling. Instead they went on a three-state crime spree. Nash held up a liquor store as Margo watched. He ordered Margo to stay up front while he took the cashier to the back room. When a customer came into the store, Margo waited on him. Meanwhile, Nash remained out of sight, accusing the cashier of being an agent of the Memphis bar. The cashier, Hillman Robbins, was tied up with rope and shot five times in the head. According to Investigator Lewis, a .22 and .38 were both used in the murder:
“I seriously doubt Margo knew that any of this was coming until it got started.”
Witnesses saw two people matching Margo and Nash’s description flee the liquor store and hop into a white Ford Fairlane. Twelve days later, eyewitnesses described an almost identical scene at a Florida convenience store. A couple exited the building and sped off. Inside the store was the body of Esther Boyea. She had been shot in the neck.
Police at first did not connect the two murders until they found Nash’s car abandoned on a highway shoulder. In the trunk they found a rope and bullet shells that matched those used in the Hillman Robbins’ murder. The car was traced to Glenn Nash and an APB was issued. But the couple’s rampage was not over. A cab driver, C.C. Surrett was shot to death shortly after picking up Glenn and Margo. The police staked out the nearby bus stations. According to Investigator Lewis, their efforts soon paid off:
“And when they arrested them they were transported to Hernando, Mississippi, to the Desoto County Jail where they were charged in connection with C.C. Surrett's murder.”
Glenn Nash and Margo Freshwater were charged with the murder of C.C. Surrett. Nash was declared insane, ruled incompetent to stand trial, and incarcerated at a mental hospital. Margo stood trial for the murder. She testified that she was held prisoner by Nash, and forced to participate in the crimes under threat of death. Twice the jury failed to reach a verdict. Three years later, Margo was tried for the murder of the first victim, Hillman Robbins. She was found guilty and sentenced to 99 years in state prison. But she would not remain there for long. Margo and another inmate hopped a barbed wire fence, hitched a ride, and disappeared. Her accomplice was eventually arrested in Chicago. But Margo Freshwater seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth.
Margo Freshwater has been arrested. It began with a tip that she was using the name “Tanya.” Police found a match between Freshwater’s birth date and the birthday of Tanya McCarter in Columbus, Ohio. Freshwater, aka McCarter, was taken into custody and her true identity was verified. At the time of her arrest, Freshwater, a mother of three, was with her family. They were unaware of her criminal past. Freshwater was returned to the same Tennessee Prison she escaped from 32 years earlier. She served her time and has been released.