Ken Deal, Chief Deputy with the U.S. Marshal’s Office, said the fugitive, Frederick Mark Barrett, 60, had been living under the alias Richard Neil Meltzer in the Montrose area, but he lived in a remote cabin, almost as a hermit. He didn’t give an exact location, but said the cabin was “about 30 minutes out of Montrose.”
Authorities had been aware of Barrett’s possible presence in the area for months, but decided to wait until summer to make their move. It was only when the officers got close enough to see a distinctive tattoo on Barrett’s hand that they knew they had their man. He did not resist arrest, Deal said, and it appeared that Barrett had tried to alter the tattoo.
“He’d been there since 1998,” he said. “But even early this morning, we didn’t know if it was him,” Deal said Wednesday afternoon.
Through a tip to Florida authorities and GPS tracking, authorities had been aware of the cabin for months, but waited until the right time, Deal said.
“We couldn’t go in the middle of winter; why go in there when you could tip off your presence? But the fire concern thing worked in our favor,” he said. “We could have done a couple of different options, and had our eyes on the place for some time through the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Forest Service. We knew that if that was our fugitive, he was not going anywhere.”
According to a press release from the Florida Department of Corrections, Barrett was serving a life sentence in Florida for the Feb. 8, 1971 murder of traveling companion Carl Ardolino on the Florida Turnpike.
The release states:
“On the day of the murder, Barrett was traveling on the Florida Turnpike with Ardolino, Michael Owensby and another passenger. Barrett began to choke Ardolino, who was driving the car, from behind as Owensby steered the car to the side of the road. Once the car stopped, Owensby began hitting Ardolino in the head with the handle of a knife until he was unconscious. Barrett and Owensby then carried his body to a shallow ditch filled with water and held his head underneath until he died.”
Barrett escaped from the Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Fla., on Aug. 17, 1979, by climbing three perimeter fences during a power outage, and hadn’t been seen since.
Barrett’s case was featured on America’s Most Wanted television show in January of 2010. His case was also featured on billboards and in a press campaign in December of 2009 during a “12 Days of Fugitives” mounted by Florida State Law Enforcement and the Department of Corrections.
Deal said he didn’t know where the tip that led to Barrett came from, but that it reminded him of another case he directed in Crested Butte “many years ago,” when a man named Murdoch had been living under the name George Banister for decades.
“He had been hiding in plain sight for 35 years,” Deal said.
Deal said that Barrett lived a hermit-like existence, which may have been why he remained undetected for so long.
“He was significantly isolated, but able to get supplies,” he said of Barrett. “It appears that in wintertime he'd just hunker down and do what most people do in the mountains, and then wait ‘til spring and then go out and forage.”
Barrett acquired the cabin from a former girlfriend, who bought the property in 1994 and deeded it to Barrett in 1998, Deal said. Also in 1998, Barrett was arrested in Delta County for domestic violence against the same woman, he said.
“No information we have says that she even knew who the guy was, and she may have only known him as Meltzer,” Deal said, but the woman will be questioned.
Barrett is not only facing escape charges in Florida, but local charges as well, since marshals found a marijuana grow house and a number of firearms in the cabin, according to Florida DOC. He must answer to Montrose County charges and then face an extradition hearing before he can return to Florida, the press release states.
Barrett is currently being held in the Montrose County Jail.