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Frederick Barrett, Escaped Murderer, Finally Caught After 32 Years on the Lam

By Cory Zurowski in fugitives, homicide
Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 9:04 am
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Carl Ardolino rode down the Florida Turnpike in the early days of 1971. He spotted two men walking on the shoulder with their thumbs pointed up. Ardolino slowed down, pulled over and invited the two hitchhikers into his vehicle. His decision would prove to be a deadly mistake...

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Frederick Barrett managed to escape from a Florida prison in 1979 by climbing three fences during a power outage
Not long after picking the two strangers up, Ardolino was attacked. He was choked and beaten to the point of unconsciousness, then had his head held underwater in a roadside ditch until he perished.

One of Ardolino's two murderers, Frederick Barrett, was convicted for the crime later that year. He was sentenced to do his time at the Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Florida. 

Barrett twice tried unsuccessfully to escape the penitentiary. His third attempt, though, would prove to be the charm. On an August night in 1979, Barrett escaped the facility in the midst of a power outage by scaling three towering fences. 

In the coming decades, the fugitive Barrett -- using the alias "Neil Meltzer" -- would travel to Hawaii, Maryland, California and Tennessee, before finally settling in a remote part of the Colorado wilderness.

Since the mid-1990s, Barrett lived in a makeshift yet clean two-story cabin near Montrose, Colorado, about 200 miles southwest of Denver. Located on a dirt road bordered by the Uncompahgre National Forest and about an hour outside of Montrose, Barrett's cabin was connected to a camper.

Its floor was made of plywood and was outfitted with a wood-burning stove and generator. The ramshackle fugitive compound also housed a small yet quality marijuana growing operation.

In 2009 Florida authorities launched a new fugitive initiative. Its aim was to find about a dozen long-term prison escapees with violent histories.

Using public records and other databases, officials tracked Barrett to Colorado.

Late last month, they finally closed in on their wanted man.

U.S. Marshals Service officers dressed as Forest Service firefighters rapped on Barrett's cabin door saying they wanted to talk to him about fire danger. Through one of the cabin windows, an officer saw a tattoo on Barrett's hand that matched one he was known to have some 30 years ago. 

The gig was up.

"His whole face," Charlie Ahmad of the Marshals Service told the Associated Press, "every expression dropped out his face." 

Barrett currently sits in the Montrose County jail awaiting extradition to Florida.

See our last story from the Fugitives file: Clifford Jackson III Kills Girlfriend's Dad After Daughter Breaks Up With Him.

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